Makers of British botany/Robert Morison 1620—1683 and John Ray 1627—1705
|←Introduction||Makers of British botany
Robert Morison 1620—1683 and John Ray 1627—1705
Sydney Howard Vines
|Nehemiah Grew 1641—1712→|
Early systems of classification—Theophrastus—the Herbalists—Cesalpino's De Plantis—Caspar Bauhin's Pinax Theatri Botanici—Morison—narrative—Botany at Oxford—the garden established—Jacob Bobart the elder—Morison's Historia Plantarum—completion by the younger Bobart—personal characteristics—Morison's works—the Praeludia—the Hallucinationes—the Dialogus—principles of method in his Plantarum Umbelliferarum Distributio Nova—posthumous publication of System—indebtedness to Cesalpino—Linnaeus' estimate of Morison—Ray—narrative—first attempt at a System—quarrel with Morison—the Methodus Nova—Dicotyledones and Monocotyledones—Linnaeus' criticisms—later Systems—the French school—Morison and Ray compared.
The literature of Botany can be traced back to a quite respectable antiquity, to the period of Aristotle (B.C. 384—322) who seems to have been the first to write of plants from the truly botanical point of view. Unfortunately, his special treatise on plants—θεωρία περὶ φυτῶν—is lost; and although there are many botanical passages scattered throughout his other writings (which have been collected by Wimmer, Phytologiae Aristotelicae Fragmenta, 1836), yet none of them gives any indication of what his ideas of classification may have been. An echo of them is perhaps to be found in the works of his favourite pupil, Theophrastus Eresius (B.C. 371—286), who among all his fellows was the most successful in pursuing the botanical studies that they had begun under the guidance of the master. Theophrastus left behind him two important, though incomplete, treatises on plants, the oldest that have survived: the more familiar Latin titles of which are De Historia Plantarum and De Causis
Plantarum. The latter is essentially physiological, touching upon agriculture to a certain extent: the former is mainly morphological, structural, descriptive, and it is here that the first attempt at a classification of plants is to be found. In writing the Historia, Theophrastus was endeavouring, as a Greek philosopher rather than as a botanist, to "give account of" plants; and in order to do so he found it necessary to arrange them in some kind of order. Seizing upon obvious external features, he distinguished (Lib. I. cap. 5) and defined Tree, Shrub, Undershrub and Herb, giving examples; adding, however, that the definitions are to be accepted and understood as typical and general, "for some may seem perhaps to deviate" from them. Simple as was this mode of arrangement, Theophrastus further simplified it in the course of his work, by treating trees and shrubs as one group, and undershrubs and herbs as the other.
It may seem, at first sight, singular that a lecture purporting to discuss the state of systematic botany in England during the 17th century should begin with a reference to the botany of the Greeks. The explanation is that the elementary classification introduced by Theophrastus persisted throughout the 17th century; the use of the groups Trees, Shrubs, and Herbs came to an end only in the 18th century, with the advent of Linnaeus. It seems almost incredible, but it is a fact, that the lapse of the nearly 2000 years that separated Theophrastus from Morison marked no material advance in the science of classification. Botanical works, when they were something more than commentaries on Theophrastus or Dioscorides, took cognizance of little else than the properties, medicinal or otherwise, of plants, and their economic uses.
A growing perception of the essential resemblances observable among plants can be traced, however, in the later Herbals, as they became less medical and economic and more definitely botanical. Thus, in the well-known work of Leonhard Fuchs (Fuchsius), De Historia Stirpium Commentarii, 1542, the plants are described in alphabetical order, without any reference to their mutual relation. But in Kyber's edition of Jerome Bock's (Tragus) De Stirpium Nomenclatura, etc., Commentariorum Libri Tres, published in 1552 (with a preface by Conrad Gesner), there is an attempt at a grouping of plants, though no principles are enunciated and no names are given to the groups, which resulted in the bringing together of labiate, leguminous, gramineous and umbelliferous herbs. The Cruydtboeck of Rembert Dodoens (Dodonaeus), 1554, marks much the same stage of progress, whereas the Nova Stirpium Adversaria of Pierre Pena and Matthias de l'Obel (Lobelius), issued in 1570, is a distinct step in advance. Here some idea is incidentally given of the principles that have been followed in the arrangement of the plants, but still no name is attached, as a rule, to the resulting groups. The work begins with an account of the herbaceous plants which, in modern terminology, are monocotyledonous: and at the end of the section (p. 65) de l'Obel thus explains what he has done:—"Hactenus comparendo quot potuimus plantarum genera, quarum effigies et naturae ordinis consequutione ita sibi mutuo haererent, ut et facillime noscerentur et memoriae mandarentur, a Gramineis, Segetibus, Harundinibus, ad Acoros, Irides, Cyperos, hincque Asphodelos bulborum tuniceorum Caepaceorumve naturam praetervecti sumus." Cruciferous, caryophyllaceous, labiate and umbelliferous herbs are also segregated to some extent in the course of the work: and the leguminous herbs are brought together into a definite group, "Alterum Frugum genus nempe graminis Trifolii et Leguminum" which is really the origin of the modern N. O. Leguminosae: though a few altogether foreign species, such as species of Oxalis, Anemone Hepatica, Jasminum fruticans L., and species of Thalictrum, are included among the trifoliate forms, and Dictamnus Fraxinella among the "Leguminosa." The Stirpium Historiae Pemptades Sex sive Libri XXX of Dodoens, published in 1583, shows considerable progress in classification as compared with his Cruydtboeck of 1554, more particularly in the recognition, apparently for the first time, of umbelliferous plants as a distinct group in a chapter headed De Umbelliferis Herbis.
Possibly these attempts to introduce some sort of system into Botany may have been inspired by the teachings of Conrad Gesner, that universal genius, who lived about this time (1516—1565). Though but fragments of his botanical writings have survived, it is clear from the much-quoted passage in a letter of his dated Nov. 26, 1565 (Epistolae Medicae, 1577, p. 113) that he too was seeking for the basis of a natural system of classification and that he thought he had found it in the flower and the fruit:—"Ex his enim notis (a fructu, semine and flore) potius quam foliis, stirpium naturae et cognationes apparent."
Evidently at this period classification was in the air, and at length it began to precipitate and to crystallise in the work of Andrea Cesalpino (Caesalpinus: 1519—1603), Professor in the University of Pisa, whose De Plantis Libri XVI, published in 1583, is one of the most important landmarks in the history of systematic Botany. Here for the first time a system is propounded which is based definitely upon morphological observation. Cesalpino turns to the "fructification," that is the flower and the fruit, for his distinguishing characters. "Enitamur igitur," he says (Lib. I. cap. xiv.), "ex propriis quae fructificationis gratia data sunt, plantarum genera investigare"; and he goes on to point out that the observable differences here depend on number, position and form of the parts:—"ad organorum constitutionem tria maxime faciant, scilicet, partium numerus, situs et figura." These principles he illustrates as follows:—the flower being the outermost covering of the fruit, a single flower may cover a single seed, as in the Almond: or a single seed-receptacle as in the Rose: or two seeds, as in the Umbelliferae: or two seed-receptacles, as in the Cress: or three seeds, as in the genus Tithymalus (Euphorbia}; or three receptacles, as in the Bulbaceous plants (petaloid Monocotyledons): or four seeds, as in Marrubium: or four receptacles, as in Euonymus: or many seeds, as in the Cichoriaceae: or many receptacles, as in the Coniferae. The feature of the relative position of the parts which he especially emphasizes is whether the flower is inserted upon the top of the fruit (i.e. is epigynous): or is inserted lower around the fruit (hypogynous or perigynous). Moreover, the form of the seed, of the seed-receptacle, and of the flower, is to be taken into account.
The practical application of these principles led to a classification of plants which, though of course imperfect, was at least a good beginning. Following Theophrastus, Cesalpino divided plants into two main groups, (1) Trees and Shrubs, (2) Undershrubs and Herbs: each of these groups was then subdivided according to the nature of the fruit and of the flower. It will be observed that Cesalpino, as was customary at that time, designated as "seeds" all indehiscent one-seeded fruits, such as nuts and the varieties of achene. The following abstract will suffice to give an adequate idea of the results obtained. The author's own words are given as nearly as possible.
- Arboreae: Seminibus saepius solitariis:
- Glandiferae: e.g. Quercus.
- Vasculiferae: Fagus, Castanea.
- Nuciferae: Juglans, Carpinus, Corylus, Ulmus, Tilia, Acer, &c.
- Pericarpio tectae; flore in sede fructus: Prunus, &c.
- flore in apice fructus: Viburnum, Aesculus, &c.
- Seminibus pluribus:
- Flore carentes: Ficus.
- Flos in summo fructus: Morus, Sambucus, Hedera, Rosa, &c.
- Flos in sede fructus: Vitis, Arbutus, Cornus, &c.
- Sedes seminis multiplex tecta communi corpore: Pyrus, Citrus.
- " " in siliquam producta: leguminous plants.
- " " bipartita: Nerium, Syringa, Populus, Betula, Salix, &c.
- " " tripartita: Buxus, Myrtus.
- " " quadripartita: Vitex, Euonymus.
- " " tecta proprio corpore: coniferous plants.
- Herbaceae: Solitariis Seminibus:
- Semina nuda, papposa: Valeriana.
- Semina pericarpio obducta: Daphne, Jasminum.
- Flos in summo fructus}}: Osyris, Valerianella.
- Flos in sede fructus, semen calyce exceptum: Urtica, Chenopodiaceae, Polygonaceae, Gramineae, Cyperaceae, Typhaceae.
- Solitariis Pericarpiis:
- Flos exterius situs (Pomum): Cucurbitaceae.
- Flos inferius situs (Bacca): Solanaceae, Ruscus, Arum, Actaea, &c.
- Solitariis Vasculis:
- Legumina: leguminous herbs.
- Capsulae: Caryophyllaceae, Primulaceae, Gentianaceae, &c.
- Binis Seminibus: (Genus Ferulaceum) Umbelliferae.
- Binis Conceptaculis:
- Semina solitaria in singulis alveolis: Rubiaceae.
- " plura, flore continuo: Scrophulariaceae, &c.
- " " flore in foliola quaterna diviso: Cruciferae.
- Triplici Principio, non-Bulbosae:
- Semina nuda: Thalictrum.
- " solitaria in tribus alveolis: Euphorbiaceae.
- plura in tribus alveolis: Convolvulaceae, Campanulaceae, &c.
- Triplici Principio, Bulbosae:
- Flos inferius sedet: bulbous Liliaceae.
- Flos in summo fructus: Amaryllidaceae.
- Bulbaceis ascribi desiderant: other Liliaceae, Iridaceae, Orchidaceae.
- Quaternis Seminibus: Boraginaceae, Labiatae.
- Pluribus Seminibus in communi sede: most Compositae.
- Lactescentes: Cichorieae.
- Acanaceae: Cynareae, Dipsacus, Eryngium, &c.
- Pluribus Seminibus Flore communi:
- Semina plene nuda: acheniferous Ranunculaceae and Rosaceae, &c.
- Aut conjunctis receptaculis: e.g. Aristolochia, Nymphaea, Papaver, Cistus.
- Aut disjunctis receptaculis: e.g. Sedum, Veratrum, Helleborus, Delphinium, Dictamnus.
- Flore fructuque carentes: Cryptogams.
In spite of its inherent imperfections and of errors of observation, the method succeeded in bringing together a considerable number of the plants dealt with, into groups which are still regarded as natural. For instance, among the trees and shrubs, the leguminous genera, and the coniferous genera, respectively, are so brought together: and among herbs, the leguminous, umbelliferous, cruciferous and composite genera. Moreover, though many of Cesalpino's sections consist of what seems to be a heterogeneous assemblage of plants, yet they include groups of closely allied genera, representing several of the natural orders of more modern times, which his method was incapable of distinguishing. With all its shortcomings, the method produced a classification of plants which has proved to have been natural in no slight degree.
The very numerous botanical works which were published in the century after the appearance of Cesalpino's De Plantis afford evidence that his system of classification did not meet with an enthusiastic reception. Though his plant-names were generally quoted, his arrangement was entirely ignored: in fact the very idea of classification seems to have gradually faded out of the minds of botanists, whose attention was more and more engrossed with the description of the new species that the rapid extension of geographical discovery was bringing to light. This condition of the science is well illustrated by the most authoritative systematic work that the 17th century produced, the great Pinax Theatri Botanici (1623) of Caspar Bauhin (1560—1624), a work which contains about six thousand plant-names, and was the product of forty years' labour. It might be expected that in such a work, special attention would have been paid to classification, that at least the best available system would have been used: as a matter of fact, the arrangement adopted is far inferior to that of Cesalpino and may be described as simply haphazard for the most part. The general lines of it are indicated by the following enumeration of the contents of the twelve Books of which the work consists; the modern equivalents of his plant-names being given.
Summary of the Arrangement adopted in Bauhin's Pinax.
Liber I. Gramineae, Juncaceae, Cyperaceae, Typhaceae, Ephedra, Equisetum, Hippuris, Asphodelus, some Iridaceae, and Zingiberaceae.
Liber II. De Bulbosis; bulbous Monocotyledons, including Orchids with Orobanche, Monotropa, and Lathraea.
Liber III. Olera et Oleracea; most Cruciferae, Polygonaceae, and Chenopodiaceae, with some of the Compositae.
Liber IV. Other Compositae; Delphinium, Fumaria; the Umbelliferae (so named); Valeriana.
Liber V. Some Solanaceae, Papaveraceae, and Ranunculacea; Gentiana, Plantago, Pyrola, Statice, Sarracenia, Nymphaea, Trapa, Sagittaria, Arum, Asarum, and some Compositae.
Liber VI. Viola; Cheiranthus, Matthiola, Alyssum, Hesperis; some Caryophyllaceae; Polygala, Specularia, Glaux, Linum, Cuscuta, most Labiatae and Scrophulariaceae; Primula, &c.
Liber VII. Lysimachia, Epilobium, Oenothera, Lythrum, some more Labiatae, Scrophulariaceae, and Caryophyllaceae; Boraginaceae; some Compositae; Alisma; Scabiosa; Hypericum; Crassulaceae; Aloe; Euphorbia.
Liber VIII. Various climbing plants; Convolvulus, Smilax, Humulus, Vitis; Clematis, Lonicera, Hedera; and Cucurbitaceae: also Apocynaceae, Asclepiadaceae, some Liliaceae, Malvaceae, Rosaceae, Leguminosae, with other genera scattered among them, as Aristolochia, Dentaria, Paeonia, Geranium.
Liber IX. Rubiaceae; Ruta, Thalictrum; the remainder of the Leguminosae.
Liber X. Cryptogams in general: with a few scattered Phanerogams such as Drosera, Oxalis sensitiva, L. (Herba viva foliis polypodii); Mimosa pudica (Herba Mimosa foliis Foenugraeci sylvestris); Lemna; and the remaining Compositae, the Thistles, with Eryngium, Dipsacus, and Acanthus.
Liber XI. Trees and Shrubs: Leguminous and Rosaceous; also Rhus, Laurus, Fraxinus, Juglans, Castanea, Fagus, Quercus, Corylus, Tilia, Ulmus, Betula, Alnus, Populus, Acer, Platanus, Ricinus.
Liber XII. Mespilus, Crataegus, Berberis, Ribes, Sambucus, Ficus, Opuntia, Morus, Arbutus, Laurus, Daphne, Cistus, Myrtus, Vaccinium, Buxus, Olea, Salix, Ligustrum, Phillyrea, Rhamnus, Rubus Rosa, Tamarix, Erica, Coniferous plants, Palma.
There was but one author, during this period, who made any material contribution to the science of classification, and that was Joachim Jung of Hamburg (1587—1657). Jung is best known by his Isagoge Phytoscopica (1678, ed. Vaget), the most philosophic and scientific treatise on plants that had appeared since the time of Aristotle, which is the foundation upon which the whole superstructure of plant-morphology and descriptive botany has since been erected. But it was in his De Plantis Doxoscopiae Physicae Minores (1662, ed. Fogel) that he expressed his views on systematic Botany. He did not propound a system of his own, but he sought to arrive at the principles upon which a classification should be based, with the logical result that he rejected the time-honoured Theophrastian division of plants into Trees and Herbs. Though Jung failed to produce any immediate impression upon the Botany of his time, he powerfully influenced the great developments which took place in the eighteenth century. It so happened that Ray, as he mentions in his Index Plantarum Agri Cantabrigiensis (1660), had obtained through Samuel Hartlib a MS. of the whole or part of Jung's Isagoge, which seems to have impressed him so much that he included many of Jung's morphological definitions in the glossary appended to the Index; and he subsequently embodied the Isagoge in the first volume of his Historia Plantarum (1686). It was from Ray's Historia that Linnaeus learned the morphological principles and terminology of Jung which were the basis of his own work in descriptive Botany, and rendered possible the elaboration of his system of classification. But, in spite of Jung, the venerable division of plants into Trees and Herbs continued to hold its own for a time. As will be seen, it was still adhered to by Morison and by Ray, even after it had been shown to be quite untenable by Rivinus (Introductio Generalis in Rem Herbariam) in 1690, and did not finally disappear until the time of Linnaeus.
It was just when systematic Botany had fallen back to its lowest level that Morison appeared upon the scene. He had been born at Aberdeen in 1620, and had there graduated Master of Arts with distinction by the time he was eighteen years old. His further studies in the natural sciences were interrupted by the Civil War, in which he took part on the Royalist side, being severely wounded in the battle of the Brig of Dee (1644). He fled to France, and there resumed his preparation for a scientific career with such success that he obtained, in 1648, the degree of Doctor of Medicine at the University of Angers. From that time onwards he devoted himself entirely to the study of Botany, which he pursued in Paris under the guidance of Vespasian Robin, Botanist to the King of France. In 1650 Morison was appointed by the Duke of Orleans, on Robin's recommendation, to take charge of the royal garden at Blois, a post which he held for ten years. The Duke of Orleans, shortly before his death early in 1660, had occasion to present Morison to his nephew King Charles II who was about to return to his kingdom. Soon after the Restoration, the King summoned Morison to London; and in spite of tempting offers made to induce him to remain in France, Morison obeyed the summons and was rewarded with the title of King's Physician and Professor of Botany with a stipend of two hundred pounds a year. During his tenure of these offices Morison found time to complete his first botanical work, the Praeludia Botanica, which was published in 1669; the same year in which he was appointed Professor of Botany in the University of Oxford.
A few words may be devoted, at this point, to the rise and progress of Botany in that University. In the year 1621, Lord Danvers (afterwards Earl of Danby), thinking "that his money could not be better laid out than to begin and finish a place whereby learning, especially the Faculty of Medicine, might be improved," decided to endow the University with a Physic Garden, such as was already possessed by various Universities on the Continent. With this object, he gave a sum of £250 to enable the University to purchase the lease of a plot of ground, about five acres in extent, situated "without the East Gate of Oxford, near the river Cherwell." A great deal of labour had to be expended upon the land after it had been secured: it was so low-lying that, as Anthony Wood says, "much soil was conveyed thither for the raising of the ground to prevent the overflowing of the waters" at the expense of Lord Danvers, who also caused to be built what Baskerville describes as "a most stately wall of hewen stone 14 foot high with 3 very considerable Gates thereto, one whereof was to the cost of at least five hundred pounds." The work proceeded but slowly, in consequence of the troublous times through which the country was passing, so that it was not completed until 1632. Even then the actual installation of the garden was delayed. About 1637 the Earl of Danby seems to have arranged with the well-known John Tradescant to act as gardener, but there is no evidence that Tradescant ever discharged the duties of the post: moreover, he died in the following year. Very shortly after this, though the exact date is not known, the Earl appointed Jacob Bobart to take charge of the Garden. Jacob Bobart was a German, born at Brunswick about the year 1599. He was an excellent gardener: under his care the garden flourished so well that the catalogue which was published in 1648 anonymously, though doubtless drawn up by Bobart, enumerated no less than 1600 species of plants in cultivation.
It had been the intention of Lord Danby to provide the University not only with a Physic Garden and a Gardener, but also with a Professor of Botany. For this purpose he bequeathed certain revenues: "but so it was that the times being unsettled, and the revenues falling short, nothing was done in order to the settling of a Professor till 1669." When the establishment of the Professorship had become possible, the University proceeded to elect Morison the first Professor of Botany, being influenced by the reputation which his recently published Praeludia Botanica had secured for him. Thus, after the lapse of nearly half a century, was Lord Danby's design completely realised.
Morison's chief occupation at Oxford was the preparation of his long promised magnum opus, the Historia Plantarum Universalis Oxoniensis. It was planned on a most extensive scale, and proved to be a laborious and costly undertaking. Morison impoverished himself in the preparation even of the one volume of it that appeared in his lifetime, though his many friends provided the cost of the 126 plates of figures with which it is illustrated, and the University advanced considerable sums of money. The work was to have been issued in three parts: the first part was to be devoted to Trees and Shrubs, and the other two parts to the Herbs. The volume published by Morison in 1680, and described as Pars Secunda, deals with only five out of the fifteen sections into which he classified herbaceous plants, although it extends to more than 600 folio pages. In the preface he gives as his reason for beginning with the Herbs rather than with the Trees and Shrubs, that he wished to accomplish first the most difficult part of his task lest, in the event of his death before the completion of the Historia, it should fall into the hands of incompetent persons. He did not live to finish his great undertaking. In November, 1683, he was in London on business connected with it: as he was crossing the Strand near Charing Cross, he was knocked down by a coach, and was so severely injured that he died on the following day. He was buried in the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields.
His unfinished work did not, as he feared, fall into incompetent hands. It was entrusted by the University to Jacob Bobart the younger, who on the death of his father in 1679, had succeeded him as Keeper of the Physic Garden, and who also succeeded Morison as Horti Praefectus, but not as Professor Botanices; the Professorship remained in abeyance for nearly forty years. After much difficulty and delay, a second and final instalment of the Historia, the Pars Tertia, dealing with the remaining ten sections of herbaceous plants, was published in 1699, as a folio of 657 pages with 168 plates. The material at Bobart's disposal was fairly abundant, consisting of Morison's MS. of four more of his sections of Herbs, with notes upon the remaining six sections. But even so, the task of completion was a laborious one, for it involved the incorporation of references to the very many descriptions of new plants that had been published since Morison's death: it has been generally admitted that Bobart discharged it with commendable skill.
Great Gate of the Physic Garden, Oxford:
the elder Bobart in the foreground
The Pars Prima, that was to have been devoted to Trees and Shrubs, was never written. All that exists to represent it, is a stout MS. volume in the Library at the Botanic Garden, Oxford, apparently in Bobart's hand-writing, containing a classification and an enumeration of the species of trees and shrubs, which may possibly have been written with a view to publication.
A most interesting feature of Bobart's Pars Tertia is the Vita Roberti Morisoni M.D. with which the book opens, written by one of Morison's intimate friends, Dr Archibald Pitcairn. It is the source of all the available information regarding Morison up to the time of his coming to Oxford; after that time much may be gathered concerning him from the records of the University. It is also a loyal defence of Morison and his system of classification against the criticisms to which, even then, he had been subjected. It concludes with a personal account of Morison, in which he is described as being "vigorous in body, having a mind trained to every kind of study, of ingenuous manners, calling a spade a spade, eager for true knowledge, a despiser of filthy lucre, considering the public advantage rather than his private gain." A portrait of him, here reproduced, forms the frontispiece to the volume.
Such was the life of the man whose botanical works are now to be considered: works that are not nearly so numerous as they are considerable, as will be seen from the following enumeration and brief description of them.
Praeludia Botanica, 1669: a small 8vo volume of about 500 pages, which consists of the following parts:
- (pp. 1—347): Hortus Regius Blesensis Auctus.
- (pp. 351—459): Hallucinationes Caspari Bauhini in Pinace, item Animadversiones in tres Tomos Universalis Historiae Johannis Bauhini.
- (pp. 463—499): Dialogus inter Socium Collegii Regii Gresham dicti et Botanographum Regium.
Plantarum Umbelliferarum Distributio Nova, per Tabulas Cognationis et Affinitatis, ex Libra Naturae observata et detecta, 1672.
Plantarum Historiae Universalis Oxoniensis Pars Secunda, seu Herbarum Distributio Nova per Tabulas Cognationis et Affinitatis ex Libro Naturae observata et detecta, 1680.
The three distinct treatises of which the Praeludia Botanica consists were written probably at different times, though published simultaneously in 1669. The first of them is an alphabetical catalogue, comprising about 2600 species, of the plants in the Royal garden at Blois when under Morison's care: 260 of the species are marked as new, and are fully described in an appendix. But the chief interest of the Hortus Regius Blesensis Auctus lies in the dedication to King Charles II. Morison here narrates how, whilst at Blois, he had framed a system of classification; how the King's Uncle, the Duke of Orleans, had promised to undertake the publication of a book to illustrate the system on an adequate scale, and how the sudden death of the Duke in 1660 had destroyed all such hopes; and he ends by appealing to the King to give him the patronage that he so much needed. "Quod si annuere hoc mihi digneris," he wrote, "polliceor Britanniam vestram cum methodo exactissima (quae est naturae ipsius) imposterum, in re Botanica gloriari posse, quemadmodum Italia, Gallia, Germania, superiori saeculo, sine methodo, in Scientia Botanica gloriatae sunt." But the King does not appear to have been moved by this dazzling promise. Morison evidently did not suffer from any lack of confidence in himself or in his method, of which he speaks on a previous page of the dedication, as "methodus nova a natura data, a me solummodo (citra jactantiam) observata: a nullo nisi meipso in hunc usque diem detecta, quamvis mundi incunabilis sit coeva," language which can hardly be described as modest. And yet, curiously enough, Morison gives not the slightest indication of the principles of this altogether new and original method of classification.
The second treatise, the Hallucinationes, is a searching and acute criticism of the published works of the brothers Bauhin: of the Pinax of Caspar, and of the Historia of John. Though he acknowledges in the preface the great value of their botanical labours, Morison did not fail to set out in detail the mistakes that they had made in both classification and nomenclature, and to make corrections which were, for the most part, justified. Probably it was the critical study of the works of the Bauhins that led Morison to frame a system of classification of his own.
The third and last treatise is the Dialogus: a dialogue between himself, as Botanographus Regius, King's Botanist, and a Fellow of the Royal Society, on the theme of classification. Here again Morison asserts the superiority of his own method: "Methodum me observasse fateor: estque omnium quae unquam adhuc fuerunt exhibitae, praestantissima et certissima quippe a natura data." But he still fails to give any definite account of it: all that he says amounts merely Paolo Bocconeato this, that the "nota generica" is not to be sought in the properties of a plant, nor in the shape of its leaves, as had been suggested by earlier writers, but in the fructification, that is, in the flower and fruit (essentiam plantarum desumendam…a florum forma et seminum conformatione).
The mention of a system of classification based on the form of the leaf evoked from Botanographus a pointed allusion to a book recently published by a Fellow of the Royal Society in which such a classification had been used, with the following severe comment: "Ego tantum confusum Chaos: illic, de plantis legi, nec quicquam didici, ut monstrabo tibi et lapsus et confusionem, alias." The book so criticised was the encyclopaedic work edited by Dr John Wilkins, Bishop of Chester, and published by the Royal Society in 1668, entitled, "An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language" to which John Ray had contributed the botanical article 'Tables of Plants.' This criticism was the beginning of the unfriendly relations between Morison and Ray, of which some further account will be given subsequently.
Another point of interest in the Dialogus is the definite assertion (p. 488) that Ferns are 'perfect' plants, having flower and seed (quia habent flores, qui fugiunt quasi obtutum, et semina quasi pulvisculum in dorso alarum), an assertion which was repeated with even greater emphasis in Morison's preface to his edition of Boccone's Icones et Descriptions Rariorum Plantarum etc. (Oxon. 1674), in opposition to the views of earlier writers, Cesalpino in particular. Cesalpino had, it is true, said of the group in which he had placed the Ferns and other Cryptogams "quod nullum semen molitur" (De Plantis, p. 591): but he had added, in the same paragraph,—"ferunt enim in folio quid, quod vicem seminis gerit, ut Filix et quae illi affinia sunt." It is a question if Morison was much nearer the truth than Cesalpino.
It is in the preface of his Plantarum Umbelliferarum Distributio Nova (1672) that Morison first gave a definite statement of the principles of his method, in the following terms: "Cumque methodus sit omnis doctrinae anima: idcirco nos tarn in hac umbelliferarum dispositione, quam in universali omnium stirpium digestione, quam pollicemur, notas genericas et essentiales a seminibus eorumque similitudine petitas, per tabulas cognationis et affinitatis disponentes stirpes exhibebimus. Differentias autem specificas a partibus ignobilioribus, scilicet radice, foliis et caulibus, odore, sapore, colore desumptas adscribemus, singulis generibus singulas accersendo species: ita species diversa facie cognoscibiles, sub generibus intermediis: genera intermedia sub supremis, notis suis essentialibus et semper eodem modo sese habentibus distincta militabunt. Hic est ordo a natura ipsa stirpibus ab initio datus, a me primo jam observatus."
It is not necessary to discuss in detail the merits of Morison's work on the Umbelliferae. It will suffice to say that it was published as a specimen of the great Historia that he had in preparation—trigesimam operis quod intendimus partem—so that the learned world might have some idea of what they were to expect from the completed work "quemadmodum aiunt ex ungue leonem"; and further, that it was the first monograph of a definite group of plants, and is remarkable for the sense of relationship between the genera that inspires it. The Umbelliferae constituted Sectio IX among the fifteen sections in which Morison distributed herbaceous plants.
At length, in 1680, appeared the Pars Secunda of the Plantarum Historia Universalis Oxoniensis in which work Morison's long-expected method of classification was to be exhibited and justified. However in this respect it proved to be disappointing: partly because it was so limited in its scope, dealing with but five of his fifteen Sectiones of herbaceous plants: and partly because it did not contain any complete outline of his system. It is most singular that, although he wrote so much, Morison should have died without having published any more definite information concerning his system of classification than what has been here cited.
Morison's influence did not, however, cease with his death; his tradition was maintained by the publication in 1699 of the Pars Tertia of the Historia, under the editorship of Bobart. This volume threw some welcome light upon Morison's system, inasmuch as it completed the description of the herbaceous plants, and gave a clear statement, in the form of a Botanologiae Summarium, of the classification resulting from the application of Morison's principles to these plants. But, even so, the revelation of the system still remained incomplete, in the absence of any account of the trees and shrubs.
It was not till nearly forty years after Morison's death, not until Bobart too was dead, that a full statement of Morison's method was published. In 1720 there appeared at Oxford a small tract of but twelve pages, the Historiae Naturalis Sciagraphia, containing an account of a complete system of classification, which agrees in all essentials, so far as herbaceous plants are concerned with that adopted by Morison and by Bobart in their respective volumes of the Historia: and, as regards trees and shrubs, with that in the MS. volume by Bobart which has been already mentioned. The tract is anonymous, but the matter that it contains is Bobart's work, whether it was written by himself or by some one who had access to his papers. This classification may be accepted as being essentially that of Morison, though somewhat modified by Bobart, who had undoubtedly been influenced by Ray's systematic writings which had appeared meanwhile. It is of such interest that it may be reproduced here, somewhat compressed, with an indication of the modern equivalents of the groups.
- I. Arbores.
- Coniferae semper virentes: most coniferous genera.
- " foliis deciduis: Larix, Alnus, Betula.
- Glandiferae: Quercus.
- Nuciferae: Juglans, Fagus, Corylus, Laurus, &c.
- Pruniferae: Prunus, Olea, &c.
- Pomiferae : Pyrus, Citrus, Punica, Ficus, &c.
- Bacciferae: Taxus, Juniperus, Morus, Arbutus, Sorbus, &c
- Siliquosae: Cercis, and other leguminous trees.
- Fructu membranaceo: Acer, Carpinus, Tilia, Fraxinus, Ulmus.
- Lanigerae non Juliferae: Platanus, Gossypium.
- Juliferae et Lanigerae: Populus, Salix.
- Sui generis Arbor: Palma.
- II. Frutices.
- Nuciferi: Staphylea.
- Pruniferi: Cornus.
- Bacciferi, foliis deciduis: Viburnum, Rhus, Rosa, Ribes, &c.
- " semper virentes: Ruscus, Phillyrea, Myrtus, Buxus, &c.
- Leguminosi: Genista, Cytisus, Colutea.
- Binis Loculamentis: Justicia, Syringa.
- Capsulis tetragonis: Philadelphus, Tetragonia.
- " pentagonis: Cistus.
- Multicapsulares: Spiraea, Erica.
- Lanigeri: Salix, Tamarix, Nerium.
- III. Suffrutices.
- Scandentes capreolis: Vitis, Bignonia, Smilax.
- " viticulis: Lonicera, Jasminum, Solanum, &c.
- " radiculis: Hedera.
- IV. Herbae.
- Sectio i. Scandentes; Bacciferae: Bryonia, Tamus, &c.
- Pomiferae: most Cucurbitaceae.
- Campanulatae: Convolvulaceae.
- Sectio ii. Leguminosae, Papilionaceae siliquis bivalvibus: Leguminous herbs.
- Sectio iii. Siliquosae Tetrapetalae Bicapsulares: Cruciferae (with Veronica and Polygala).
- hisce adjiciuntur quaedam: Chelidonium, Fumaria, Epilobium, &c.
- Sectio iv. Hexapetalae Tricapsulares:
- Radicibus fusiformibus; Asphodelus, Anthericum.
- " tuberosis; Crocus, Gladiolus, Iris.
- " bulbosis; Narcissus, Hyacinthus, Allium.
- " squamatis; Lilium.
- Sectio v. A Numero Capsularum et Petalorum Dictae:
- tricapsulares campanulatae; Campanulaceae.
- " pentapetalae; Hypericum, Viola.
- bicapsulares monopetalae; Scrophulariaceae.
- quadricapsulares tetrapetalae; Rutaceae.
- quinquecapsulares pentapetalae; Geraniaceae.
- pentapetalae emollientes; Malvaceae.
- " unicapsulares; Caryophyllaceae, Primulaceae.
- " seminibus triangularibus; Polygonaceae.
- " " nigris splendentibus; Chenopodiaceae.
- Sectio i. Scandentes; Bacciferae: Bryonia, Tamus, &c.
- Sectio vi. Corymbiferae: (Compositae in part)
- floribus aureis; Artemisia, Tanacetum.
- " rubris; Adonis annua L.
- " albis; Bellis, Anthemis, Achillea, &c.
- " ianthinis; Xeranthemum, Scabiosa, Globularia.
- Sectio vii. Flosculis Stellatis: (the rest of the Compositae)
- lactescentes non papposae; Cichorium.
- " papposae; Lactuca, Sonchus, Hieracium.
- papposae non lactescentes; Senecio, Aster, Doronicum, &c.
- " capitatae; Cynareae.
- Sectio viii. Culmiferae sen Calamiferae: Gramineae, Cyperaceae, Typhaceae.
- Sectio ix. Umbelliferae.
- Hisce adnectuntur Plantae Stellatae; Rubiaceae.
- Sectio x. Tricoccae Purgatrices}: Euphorbiaceae.
- Sectio xi. Monopetalae Tetracarpae Galeatae et Verticillatae: Labiatae.
- Hisce adjiciuntur Galeatae non verticillatae; Verbena, Euphrasia.
- Et Verticillatae non Galeatae; Urtica.
- Sequuntur Monopetalae tetracarpae asperifoliae; Boraginaceae.
- Sectio xii. Multisiliquae Polyspermae et Multicapsulares:
- multisiliquae; folliculate Ranunculaceae, Sedum, &c.
- multicapsulares; Papaver, Nymphaea, Orchidaceae, Aristolochia, Orobanche, Pyrola, &c.
- Sectio xiii. Bacciferae: some Solanaceae, Sambucus, Cornus, Ruscus, Arum, &c.
- Sectio xiv. Capillares Epiphyllospermae: Filices and Ophioglossaceae.
- Sectio xv. Heteroclitae seu Anomalae: consists of
- (a) Certain Phanerogams : e.g. Piper, Acanthus, Apocynum, Cuscuta, Reseda, Sagittaria, Alisma, Lemna, Drosera.
- (b) Pteridophyta other than Ferns: Equisetum, Pilularia, Lycopodium.
- (c) Bryophyta, Algae, Fungi.
- Sectio vi. Corymbiferae: (Compositae in part)
This then is the Morisonian method,—or at least the nearest available approximation to it—in its entirety. The effect of its application to the Vegetable Kingdom can hardly be accepted as a sufficient justification of the superlatives with which its author had introduced it. Of course it is not reasonable to judge this method, or any other method of the past, by the standard of botanical knowledge as at present existing: it can only be fairly judged from the standpoint of its author. What has to be considered is (1) the soundness of the principles adopted, and (2) the consistency in the application of those principles. The conclusion to be drawn from such a consideration of the foregoing table is that Morison was more fortunate in his theory than in his practice. In spite of his statement that the "nota generica" should be taken from the fructification, many of the Sectiones are based upon quite other characters: such are (among the Herbs) the Scandentes, the Corymbiferae, the Culmiferae. Had Morison adhered more closely to his own principles, the results would have been more in accordance with his sanguine anticipations: such a heterogeneous group as Sectio V, for instance, would have been impossible. It was, perhaps, on account of its inconsistency that Morison's method never came into general use, although it was adopted enthusiastically by Paul Amman, Professor at Leipzig, in his Character Plantarum Naturalis (ed. 1685); and, with some modifications, by Christopher Knaut, Professor at Halle, in his Enumeratio Plantarum circa Halam Saxonum sponte provenientium, 1687, as well as by Paul Hermann, Professor at Leyden, in his Florae Lugduno-Batavi Flores (ed. Zumbach), 1690.
Morison's writings evoked severe contemporary criticism, more on account of their manner than of their matter. His constant reference to the "Hallucinationes" of Caspar Bauhin especially, was considered to be offensive even if warranted, for every botanist admitted a debt of gratitude to the author of the Pinax. Equally resented was Morison's oft-repeated statement that he had drawn the principles of his classification, not from the works of other writers, but from the book of Nature alone. It was urged against him that he had failed to do justice to his predecessors, particularly to Cesalpino: and it must be admitted that there is unfortunately some truth in this allegation. Morison's indebtedness to Cesalpino is suggested by the fact that the nature of the fruit, and in a secondary degree that of the flower, was the basis of both their methods. From a comparison of the two systems, as set out in this lecture, their fundamental resemblance can be traced through the many differences of detail. Since Morison does not quote Cesalpino in his books, it might be inferred that possibly he had not read him. But there is convincing evidence to the contrary. There is the fact that Morison's preface to the Historia contains a sentence taken verbatim, without acknowledgment, from the dedication of Cesalpino's De Plantis. Further, there is in the Library at the Oxford Botanic Garden a copy of the De Plantis containing many marginal notes which could not have been written by any one but Morison. The explanation of the position is probably this, that Morison regarded his classification as so great an advance upon that of Cesalpino, that he did not think it necessary to acknowledge what still remained of the earlier writer's work: but in any case his omission to mention Cesalpino was a grave error of judgment.
At this point it may well be asked, what are Morison's actual merits if, as it appears, he borrowed the leading principles of his classification from his predecessors? The most satisfactory answer to this question is that which is provided by those who lived and wrote at times but little removed from his own. Thus Tournefort, in his Elemens de Botanique (1694: p. 19) speaking of the work of Cesalpino and of Colonna, said—"Pent-être que la chose seroit encore à faire si Morison…ne s'étoit avisé de renouveller cette metode. On ne sauroit assez louer cet auteur; mais il semble qu'il se loue lui-même un peu trop: car bien loin de se contenter de la gloire d'avoir executé une partie du plus beau projet que l'on ait jamais fait en Botanique, il ose comparer ses découvertes à celles de Cristoffe Colomb, et sans parler de Gesner, de Cesalpin, ni de Columna, il assure en plusieurs endroits de ses ouvrages, qu'il n'a rien apris que de la nature même." Later, in his Institutions Rei Herbariae (1700, p. 53) Tournefort expressed the same opinion in somewhat different words:—"Legitima igitur constititendorum generum ratio Gesnero et Columnae tribui debet, eaque fortè in tenebris adhuc jaceret, nisi Robertus Morisonus…eam quasi ab Herbariis abalienatam renovasset, instaurasset, et primus ad usus quotidianos adjunxisset, qua in re summis laudibus excipiendus, longe vero majoribus si a suis abstinuisset."
The estimate formed of him by Linnaeus is clearly stated in a letter addressed to Haller probably about the year 1737: "Morison was vain, yet he cannot be sufficiently praised for having revived system which was half expiring. If you look through Tournefort's genera you will readily admit how much he owes to Morison, full as much as the latter was indebted to Cesalpino, though Tournefort himself was a conscientious investigator. All that is good in Morison is taken from Cesalpino, from whose guidance he wanders in pursuit of natural affinities rather than of characters" (see Smith's Correspondence of Linnaeus, vol. ii. p. 281). If only Morison had frankly assumed the role of the restorer of a method that had been forgotten, instead of posing as its originator, his undoubted merits would have met with their just recognition, and his memory would have been free from any possible reproach.
Before Morison's method of classification could have come into general use, there was a rival system in the field, which was destined to achieve success, and in its course to absorb all that was good in Morison's: this was the system of John Ray.
Ray was born at Black Notley, near Braintree, Essex, on Nov. 29, 1628; so that he was not much junior to Morison. He studied and graduated with such distinction at the University of Cambridge, that he was in due course elected a Fellow of, and appointed a Lecturer in, his College (Trinity). Here he remained until 1662, when he resigned his Fellowship on his refusal to sign the declaration against 'the solemn league and covenant' prescribed by the Act of Uniformity of 1661. After leaving Cambridge he spent some years travelling both in Britain and on the Continent; and eventually settled at his birth-place, Black Notley, where he died on Jan. 17, 1704-5.
During his residence in Cambridge, Ray devoted much of his time to the study of natural history, a study which afterwards became his chief occupation. The first fruit of his labours in this direction was the Catalogus Plantarum circa Cantabrigiam nascentium, published in 1660, followed in due course by many works, for he was a prolific author, botanical and zoological as well as theological and literary, of which only those can be considered at present which contributed materially to the development of systematic botany.
The first such work of Ray's was his contribution of the Tables of Plants to Dr John Wilkins's Real Character and a Philosophical Language, published in 1669, which has already been mentioned in the course of this lecture (p. 21). The following
is a summary of Ray's first attempt at a system of classification. He begins by distinguishing Herbs, Shrubs, and Trees. Proceeding to the detailed classification of Herbs, he divides them into Imperfect "which either do want or seem to want some of the more essential parts of Plants, viz. either Root, Stalk, or Seed," the Cryptogamia of Linnaeus; and Perfect "having all the essential parts belonging to a Plant." The Perfect Herbs are arranged in three main groups according to (1) their leaves, (2) their flowers, (3) their seed-vessel, each group being subdivided in various ways.
Herbs considered according to their Leaves:
- With long Leaves: Frumentaceous, "such whose seed is used by men for food, either Bread, Pudding, Broth, or Drink" (Cereals): or Non-Frumentaceous (other Grasses, Sedges, Reeds).
- Gramineous Herbs of Bulbous Roots (Bulbous Monocotyledons).
- Herbs of Affinity to Bulbous Roots (other Monocotyledons).
- Herbs of Round Leaves (e.g. Petasites, Viola, Pinguicula, Drosera).
- Herbs of Nervous Leaves (e.g. Veratrum, Plantago, Gentiana, Polygonum).
- Succulent Herbs (Sedum, Saxifraga).
- "Herbs considered according to the Superficies of their Leaves, or their Manner of Growing":
- more rough (e.g. Borago, Anchusa, Echium):
- less rough (e.g. Pulmonaria, Symphytum, Heliotropium):
- stellate leaves (e.g. Asparagus, Galium).
Herbs considered according to their flowers: "having no seed-vessel besides the Cup which covers the flower":
- Herbs of Stamineous Flowers, "whose flower doth consist of threddy Filaments or Stamina, having no leaves besides the Perianthium: or those herbaceous leaves encompassing these stamina, which do not wither or fall away before the seed is ripe"; and not of grassy leaves, may be distributed into such whose seeds are
- Triangular (Polygonaceae);
- Round: "distinguishable by sex, of male and female; because from the same seed some plants are produced which bear flowers and no seeds, and others which bear seeds and no flowers" (e.g. Cannabis, Humulus, Mercurialis): not distinguishable by sex (e.g. Chenopodiaceae, Urticaceae, Resedaceae).
Herbs having a Compound Flower not Pappous } (Compositae). Pappous Herbs
- Umbelliferous Herbs (Umbelliferae, with Valeriana).
Verticillate Fruticose Herbs } (Labiatae). Verticillate Not Fruticose Herbs
- Spicate Herbs (a curious medley, including Dipsacus, Eryngium, Echinops, Agrimonia, Circaea, Poterium Sanguisorba, Polygonum Persicaria, Trifolium stellatum, T. arvense, and Potamogeton angustifolium).
- Herbs bearing Many Seeds together in a Cluster or Button (e.g. Geum, Potentilla, Anemone, Ranunculus, Adonis, Malva).
Herbs considered according to their Seed-vessel:
- Of a divided Seed-vessel, which may be called Corniculate (Paeonia, Dictamnus, Delphinium, Aquilegia, Aconitum, Geranium, Scandix).
- Of an entire Seed-vessel:
Papilionaceous Climbing Herbs } (Papilionaceae). Papilionaceous Herbs not Climbing
- Not papilionaceous (mostly Cruciferae).
- bearing Flowers of Five Leaves (Caryophyllaceae, Hypericaceae, Euphorbia, Linum, Lysimachia, Ruta, Nigella).
- whose flowers consist of three or four Leaves (some Cruciferae, Epimedium, Papaver, Verbena, Statice, Veronica).
- Campanulate Herbs:
- climbing (most Cucurbitaceae and Convolvulaceae):
- erect (Campanulaceae, some Solanaceae, Digitalis).
- Not campanulate (Primulaceae, Scrophulariaceae, Acanthaceae, Aristolochia, Vinca).
- Bacciferous herbs: may be distinguished according to their Qualities:
- Esculent fruit:
- more pleasant (Strawberry),
- less pleasant (Tomato).
- Esculent root (Potato):
- of simple leaves (Nightshade, Mandrake),
- of compound leaves (Herb Christopher, Paris).
- Esculent fruit:
- Or Manner of Growth:
- being climbers (Bryonia, Tamus, Smilax):
- not climbers (Physalis Alkekengi, Cucubalus, Sambucus Ebulus).
|I.||Bacciferous Spinous Shrubs of Deciduous Leaves
|II.||Bacciferous Shrubs of Deciduous Leaves, not Spinous
|III.||Bacciferous Sempervirent Shrubs
|V.||Graniferous Deciduous Shrubs
|VI.||Graniferous Evergreen Shrubs
|I.||Pomiferous Trees (Apple, Pear, &c., Sorbus, Fig, Pomegranate, Orange, Lemon, Banana).|
|II.||Pruniferous Trees (Peach, Plum, Cherry, &c., Olive, Date, Jujube).|
|III.||Bacciferous Trees (Mulberry, Elder, Sumach, Celtis, Bay, Yew, Holly, Box, &c.).|
|IV.||Nuciferous Trees (Walnut, Almond, Hazel, Castanea, Beech, Coco-Palm, Coffee, Cocoa, Cotton).|
|V.||Glandiferous and Coniferous Trees (Oak, Alder, Larch, Cedar, Pine, Spruce, Cypress).|
|VI.||Trees bearing their Seeds in Single Teguments or Coverings (Carob, Tamarind, Elm, Hornbeam, Maple, Poplar, Willow, Lime, Plane).|
|VII.||Trees considered according to their Woods or Barks (Lignum Vitae, Snakewood, Sandal-wood, Log-wood, Cinnamon, Cinchona, &c.).|
|VIII.||Trees considered according to their Gumms or Rosins (Myrrh, Gum Arabic, Copal, Benzoin, Liquidambar, Camphor).|
Such is the classification of which Morison spoke so slightingly in the Dialogus: though the character of the leaf is not made so much of as his criticism implied. There is no need to dwell upon the strained relations that arose between Ray and Morison; it may suffice to say that Morison laid himself open to the charge of jealousy, and that Ray never forgave the criticisms, both written and oral, that Morison had made on him. Those who are interested in the unfortunate quarrel will find an account of it, with a most loyal apology for Morison, in Blair's Botanical Essays (1720). Ray may certainly be acquitted of plagiarism which is suggested by Blair, for he had no opportunity of studying Morison's system in its entirety: since, as already explained, it was not published in a complete form until the appearance of the Sciagraphia in 1720, long after Ray's death. When Ray wrote the Tables of Plants for Dr Wilkins, not even the Preludia Botanica had been published: the only work that he produced after the publication of both parts of Morison's Historia was the last edition of his Methodus Plantarum (1703) which displays principles of classification of which Morison had no conception.
The Tables of Plants does not illustrate any very definite principles. It was a tentative production, written to order: in fact, it appears (as explained in the preface to his Methodus emendata, 1703) that Ray, in writing it, was not free to follow what he really believed to be the order of Nature. It is interesting, however, as being the first systematic work published in England. The classification is based, to some extent, upon the character of the fruit, a principle borrowed, probably not from Morison but directly from Cesalpino. Before long it was superseded by a much more comprehensive and ambitious attempt, the Methodus Plantarum Nova, issued in 1682, two years after Morison's Historia (Pars Secunda).
Ray's Methodus Plantarum Nova, 1682.
- De Herbis.
A comparison between the classification of the Methodus Nova and that of the Tables of Plants shows that whilst he left the Trees and the Shrubs almost unaltered, Ray remodelled his arrangement of the Herbs. Whereas, in the Tables, he had proceeded along three distinct lines of classification indicated by the characters of leaf, flower, and seed-vessel respectively, all regarded as equally important; in the Methodus, the leaf-character is subordinated to those of flower and fruit, and these are not kept distinct but are combined; a fundamental change of principle which is no doubt to be attributed to Morison's criticisms on the Tables. As Ray put it in his Preface: Methodus haec differentials sumit a similitudine et convenientia partium praecipuarum, radicis puta, floris et ejus calicis, seminis ejusque conceptaculi. The result is that many of the sub-divisions consist of groups of plants which are really natural, the precursors of several of the recognized Natural Orders of Phanerogams; such as Polygonaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Compositae, Umbelliferae, Rubiaceae, Boraginaceae, Labiatae, Cucurbitaceae, Scrophulariaceae, Cruciferae, Leguminosae, Gramineae. The principles adopted were capable of yielding even better results, had they been more rigorously applied and had the investigation of the plants been more minute. For instance, in genera xxi and xxii, with a little more attention to floral characters, the Ranunculaceous might have been separated from the Rosaceous genera, and all of them from the Malvaceae: similarly in genera xxvi—xxviii, the Scrophulariaceous, and possibly also the Campanulaceous genera, might have been segregated. One of the principal achievements is the recognition of the group Stellatae (Rubiaceae) as independent of, but related to, the Umbelliferae. For this, as well as other features, Ray was indebted to Cesalpino (conf. p. 11), as he acknowledges in his Preface. Nor does Ray fail to acknowledge his obligations to Joachim Jung, and to Morison whose Preludia and Historia he cites.
But if Ray's Methodus Nova owed something to Morison's Historia (Pars secunda), at a later stage the Historia (Pars Tertia) was even more indebted to the Methodus Nova. It is striking to observe how many of the groups constituted in the Pars Tertia and in the Sciagraphia (see p. 23) agree with those of Ray. It is this close association, amounting almost to mutual dependence, of the systems of these two botanists, that makes comparative criticism of them an impossibility. Their relative position may, in fact, be summed up in the statement that both of them adopted the principles of Cesalpino, and that Ray eventually proved to be more successful than Morison in their application.
The Methodus Nova is something more than a system of classification. The systematic part of the work is preceded by five Sectiones which are morphological essays bearing the following titles : I. De Plantarum seminibus observationes quaedam generales: II. De Foliis Plantarum seminalibus dictis: III. De Plantula seminali reliquisque semine contentis: IV. De Floribus Plantarum, eorumque partibus et differentiis: V. De Divisione Plantarum generali in Arbores, Frutices, Suffrutices et Herbas. Beginning with the last, it is a discussion of the propriety of retaining the old Theophrastian sub-divisions: Ray agreed with Jung (see p. 15) that they are popular rather than accurate and philosophical, but he retained them on the ground of expediency. The fourth Sectio is an outline of the morphology of the flower based upon Jung's Isagoge which Ray had received in MS. from Dr John Worthington who had obtained it from Samuel Hartlib, as is explained in the Preface. The first three Sectiones are of peculiar interest: they give an account of Ray's observations upon seeds and seedlings, with quotations from Malpighi's recent work on the same subject (Anatomes Plantarum, Pars Prima, 1675; Pars altera, 1679), recognizing the fact that the seedlings of some plants have two seed-leaves or cotyledons (as Malpighi first called them), those of others only one, a fact which came to be of great systematic importance.
The classification of the Methodus Nova was maintained by Ray in his Historia Plantarum (t. i, 1686), as well as in both the first (1690) and second (1696) editions of his Synopsis Methodica Stirpium Britannicarum, somewhat improved and more compact in form. His ultimate views were expressed in the Methodus Plantarum emendata et aucta, published in 1703 not long before his death. In many respects this final form of his system is a great improvement upon that of 1682; more especially in the adoption of the number of the seed-leaves as a systematic character. Ray, it is true, limited the application of this character to herbaceous plants, as he had not brought himself to give up the old categories of Herbs, Shrubs and Trees: nevertheless, he founded in this work the groups of Dicotyledones and Monocotyledones which persist, though materially altered as to their content, to the present day.
Ray's Methodus Emendata et Aucta, 1703.
- De herbis. Flore Destitutae.
Genus i. Submarinae: Algae, &c. " ii. Fungi. " iii. Musci: Bryophyta with Lycopodium. " iv. Capillares: Filices.
Herbae sui generis: Ophioglossum, Pilularia, Salvinia, Salicornia, &c.
Floriferae. Dicotyledones. " v. Flore stamineo: e.g. Urticaceae, Polygonaceae, Chenopodiaceae, &c. " vi–ix. Flore Composito seu aggregato: Compositae, with Dipsaceae, Eryngium, Globularia. " x. Flore simplici, semine nudo solitario: e.g. Valeriana, Mirabilis, Agrimonia. " xi. Umbelliferae. " xii. Stellatae: Rubiaceae. " xiii. Asperifoliae: Boraginaceae. " xiv. Verticillatae: Labiatae. " xv. Semine nudo, Polyspermae: e.g. Alisma, Ranunculus, Potentilla. " xvi. Pomiferae: Cucurbitaceae. " xvii. Bacciferae: Bryonia, Tamus, Arum, Polygonatum, Solanum, &c.
- Pomiferae: Citrus.
- Bacciferae, Monopyrenae: Viscum, Daphne, Rhamnus sp.
- " Polypyrenae: e.g. Vitis, Rubus, Ligustrum, Berberis, &c.
discoveries of Caesalpinus have escaped all observation, whilst everything has stupidly been ascribed to Ray" (Smith's Correspondence of Linnaeus, ii. p. 280—1). This rather severe criticism does not, however, seem to have prejudiced Haller against Ray, for in the former's well-known Bibliotheca Botanica (vol. i. p. 500, 1771), in speaking of the rapid progress of Botany in the latter part of the seventeenth century, he adds—"Multa pars horum incrementorum debetur Johanni Ray. Vir pius et modestus, V. D. M. maximus ab hominum memoria botanicus, ea felicitate usus est, ut totos quinquaginta annos dilecto studio ei licuerit impendere.;"
Ray's system also became more popular than that of Morison, and was in general use in England until the latter half of the eighteenth century, when it was gradually superseded by the Linnean method which was first applied to English botany in Dr J. Hill's Flora Britannica (1760).
Ray was never engaged in teaching any branch of natural history. Had there been, in his day, a Chair of Botany in the University of Cambridge, he would, no doubt, have occupied it: however, the professorship was not established until 1724, twenty years after his death. He might very well have been chosen to succeed Morison at Oxford: but, for some unstated reason, the professorship there was kept in abeyance for nearly forty years after the death of Morison.
As has been explained, Morison and Ray revived the forgotten labours of Cesalpino. The immediate result of the publication of their systems was to stimulate their colleagues on the continent of Europe to a noble emulation: there was scarcely a botanist of note who did not elaborate a system of his own. After suffering from too little work in the direction of classification, botany now began to suffer from too much: one after the other, system followed system in rapid succession. Those, for instance, of Christopher Knaut (1687), Paul Hermann (1690), Boerhaave (1710), Rivinus (1690—1711), Ruppius (1718), Christian Knaut (1716); and, in France, of Tournefort (1694, 1700), and of Magnol (1720). Then came the Methodus Sexualis of Linnaeus (Systema Naturae, 1735). The effect of the general adoption of Linnaeus' most useful but artificial method was the temporary arrest almost everywhere, except in France, of the quest of the natural system. Though this was the effect of the introduction of his method, it was not at all the intention of Linnaeus: for in his Classes Plantarum (1738, p. 485) he said, "Primum et ultimum in parte Systematica Botanices quaesitum est Methodus Naturalis." On the same page of that work he laid down, in a series of aphorisms, the principles upon which alone the construction of such a method can be successfully attempted; and he gave special emphasis to this one, that the classificatory characters should not be taken from a single structure but from all: "nec una vel altera pars fructificationis, sed solum simplex symmetria omnium partium." It was just because they had failed to formulate this principle that the earlier systematists,—whether Fructists, as Cesalpino, Morison, Ray, Knaut and Hermann; or Corollists, as Rivinus and Tournefort; or Calycists, as Magnol—were not more successful, and that their systems, even the Methodus emendata of Ray, were more or less artificial.
It was in France that the carving out, as it were, of the Natural Orders from the solid block of genera was carried on with the greatest success. This process had become much less difficult since Tournefort had begun to constitute genera in the modern sense of the term. Before his time the word "genus" had been applied indiscriminately to every kind of plant-group (see the systems of Cesalpino and Ray, pp. 12, 32): the largest groups were the summa genera; the smaller, the genera subalterna or infima. Tournefort limited the application of the term to the smallest groups of species, designating by the term Classe the largest groups which he subdivided into Sections (Elemens de Botanique, 1694). It was Linnaeus (Classes Plantarum, p. 485) who introduced the term Ordo to designate the subordinate groups of the classes.
Tournefort himself succeeded, by means of his corollist method, in distinguishing for the first time the following Sections, describing their flowers by terms which are now familiar as the names of natural orders; Flore Labiato, Cruciformi, Rosaceo, Caryophyllaceo, Liliaceo, Papilionaceo, Amentaceo; though these sections do not all exactly agree with the modern Natural Orders of similar designation. A remarkable, if not altogether successful, attempt in the same direction was Adanson's Families des Plantes (1763), based upon the sound Linnean principle, "qu'il ne peut i avoir de Methode naturele en Botanicke, que celle qui considere l'ensemble de toutes les parties des Plantes." The number of species and varieties known in his day amounted to something over eighteen thousand: these, reduced into 1615 genera, he grouped into fifty-eight families. Several of those had been already more or less well defined; but most of them were entirely original, and not a few of them persist to the present day, though Adanson is not credited with all that are his due. His lack of method in naming his families, to say nothing of the fantastic nomenclature of his genera, made it necessary for other names to be preferred to his. Still some familiar names of natural orders are attributable to him, such as Hepaticae, Onagrae, Compositae, Caprifolia, Borragines, Portulacae, Amaranthi, Papavera, Cisti, though most of them have since undergone some change in their termination. In addition to these, there are several which would have been credited to Adanson, had it not so happened that they had also been suggested by Bernard de Jussieu: such are, Palmae, Aristolochiae, Myrti, Campanulae, Apocyna, Verbenae, Thymeleae, Gerania, Malvae, Ranunculi. Adanson was the first to publish these names (1763): but Bernard de Jussieu had made use of them as early as 1759 in laying out the Trianon Garden at Versailles, though they were not actually published until 1789, when all the 65 orders devised by him were included in the Genera Plantarum secundum Ordines Naturales disposita of his famous nephew Antoine Laurent de Jussieu. Here at last was a fairly complete natural system, consisting of one hundred natural orders arranged in fifteen classes, within the three great subdivisions, Acotyledones, Monocotyledones, Dicotyledones, constituting the framework of that which is accepted at the present day. It has undergone many modifications, of which the first and most important were those effected by A. P. de Candolle (Théorie Élémentaire, 1813), who, while he improved upon Jussieu in various ways, made the unfortunate, but happily unsuccessful, attempt to substitute "Endogenae" for "Monocotyledones" and "Exogenae" for "Dicotyledones." The system has proved itself capable of expansion to accommodate all the new genera and natural orders that have since been established: it has justified itself as a natural classification in its susceptibility to development in precision as well as in extent, and in that it has survived the many experiments made upon it during the first century of its existence.
The glory of this crowning achievement belongs to Jussieu: he was the capable man who appeared precisely at the psychological moment, and it is the men that so appear who have made, and will continue to make, all the great generalisations of science. Jussieu's achievement, like other great scientific achievements, would have been impossible without the labours and failures of his predecessors, of which some account has been given in this lecture. He himself attributed much of his success to the work of Tournefort, but it is clear that he owed at least as much to Ray: if he learned from the former the systematic importance of the gamopetalous and of the polypetalous corolla, he gleaned from the latter the value of the cotyledonary characters upon which are based his three primary subdivisions of the Vegetable Kingdom.
It has been necessary to go beyond the strict limits of the history of British Botany in order to make it clear to what extent and at what period our two distinguished fellow-countrymen contributed to the development of the natural system of classification. Enough has been said to establish the importance and the opportuneness of their contributions: if Pisa was glorified by the birth of Systematic Botany, and Paris by its adolescence, Oxford and Cambridge were honoured by its renascence. The question concerning the respective merits of Morison and Ray finds perhaps its most satisfactory answer in the words of Linnaeus (Classes Plantarum, 1747, p. 65): "Quamprimum Morisonus artis fundamentum restaurasset, eidem mox suam superstruxit methodum Rajus, quam dein toties reparavit, usque dum in ultima senectute emendatam et auctam emitteret": Morison relaid the foundation upon which Ray built. As Linnaeus points out, Ray enjoyed the advantage of a very long period of productive activity: in the thirty-four years that separated his Tables of Plants from his Methodus Emendata et Aucta, he had time to revise and remodel his system. Morison, on the contrary, was prevented by unfavourable circumstances from beginning the publication of his Method until late in life, and he was not permitted to see more than a fragment of it issue from the press.
It is probable that Ray was more truly a naturalist than was Morison: for in addition to his works on Method, he published not only his Catalogus Plantarum circa Cantabrigiam nascentium (1660), but also a Catalogus of British plants (1670, 2nd ed. 1677), almost the earliest work of the kind, only preceded by William How's Phytologia Britannica (1650), which developed into the first British Flora arranged systematically, the Synopsis Methodica Stirpium Britannicarum (1690, 2nd ed. 1696). Morison published nothing on field-botany; his volume of the Historia contains, it is true, occasional mention of plants found in or near Oxford, but the finder of them seems always to have been the younger Bobart. Ray included in the Synopsis a list of plants that had been communicated to him by Bobart, with whom he seems to have been intimate, and expressed his indebtedness to Bobart's botanical skill.
But whether the palm be bestowed upon the one or the other, the fact remains that both were men of exceptional capacity, and that both did good work for British Botany, raising it to a level which commanded the respect and admiration of the botanical world; from which, as the succeeding lectures of this course will show, it was not allowed to sink. What Linnaeus said of Morison may be applied equally to Ray, "Roma certe non uno die, nec ab uno condebatur viro. Ille tamen faces extinctas incendit, a quibus ignem mutuati sunt subsequentes, quibus datum ad lucidum magis focum objecta rimare" (Classes Plantarum, p. 33).
Genus i. Imperfectae, flore et semine carentes: Algae, Fungi. " ii. Semine minutissimo: Bryophyta, most Pteridophyta. " iii. Acaules Epiphyllospermae, vulgo Capillares: Filices. " iv. Flore imperfecto, sexu distinctae: e.g. Humulus, Cannabis, Spinachia, Urtica. " v. " imperfecto, sexu carentes: e.g. Chenopodium, Alchemilla, Artemisia. " vi. " imperfecto, Monospermae, semine triquetro: Polygonaceae. " vii. " composito, Lactescentes: Compositae, Cichorieae. " viii. " discoide, Papposae: Compositae, most Asteroideae and Senecionideae. " ix. " discoide nudo, Papposae: Compositae, Eupatorium, Senecio, Gnaphalium. " x. " composite discoide, Corymbiferae: Compositae, some Anthemideae. " xi. " discoide nudo, Corymbiferae: Compositae, the rest of the Anthemideae. " xii. " ex flosculis fistularibus, Capitatae: Compositae, Cynareae. " xiii. " composito, Anomalae: Dipsacus, Scabiosa, Echinops, Armeria. " xiv. " perfecto, seminibus nudis singulis: Valeriana, Thalictrum, Statice, Agrimonia, &c. " xv, xvi. Umbelliferae.
- De Fruticibus.
Genus i. Bacciferi sempervirentes: e.g. Vaccinium, Ruscus, Hedera, Viscum, Juniperus. " ii. " foliis deciduis, non spinosi: e.g. Vitis, Lonicera, Cornus, Sambucus. " iii. " foliis deciduis, spinosi: Crataegus sp., Ribes sp., Rosa, Berberis, &c. " iv. Seminibus nudis, aut vasculis siccis inclusis: e.g. Vitex, Rhus, Spiraea, Erica. " v. Floribus papilionaceis: e.g. Acacia, Genista, Cytisus, Colutea. " vi. Suffrutiscentes: a miscellaneous collection of species.