Page:A memoir of Lewis David von Schweinitz.djvu/31

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22
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF

mark of scholastic vanity, thus to seal against the majority of readers, the very books which profess to make known his discoveries. To this, we may answer promptly and decidedly in the negative. For, if written either in German or in English, the two other languages with which he was, probably, the most familiar, they must have been sealed against a far greater number of those who are ever likely to seek instruction from their pages. A few inquisitive botanists are found in every quarter of the globe, and the medium of communication between them is the same as that of the whole scientific world was three centuries ago. It was to these that Schweinitz was obliged, from the nature of the case, to address himself, and to these he spoke in a language which they all, doubtless, understood.

It may, in the next place, appear singular that so great a part of his exertions should have been devoted to the cryptogamous races. But to this preference he had, by birthright, a sort of hereditary, or derivative national title, since it is to German, Danish, and Swedish botanists[1] that we owe by far the greater part of our knowledge of that difficult department. In fact, German botany, like German metaphysics, appears to deem the obvious, every-day phenomena of a science, utterly unworthy of her regards. Phænogamous plants want the charm of an adequate mystery; things are

  1. The botanist will readily recal to mind, in addition to the names of Schweinitz and Muhlenburg, among ourselves, those of Weber, Schwaegrichen, Roth, Nees, Fries, Link, Kunz, Schræder, Tode, Hoffman, Hedwig, Withering, Gartner, Schæffer, Batsch, Wahlenberg, Schkuhr, Schwartz, and many others, as illustrations, more or less apposite, of our position.