Page:History of botany (Sachs; Garnsey).djvu/404
384 History of the Sexual Theory. [BOOK in.
If now we ask ourselves, what it really was that was gained from Millington and Grew, we find that it was simply the conjecture, that the anthers produce the male element in fertilisation, and that this view was closely connected in their minds with the strangest chemical theories and analogies from animal life. It is remarkable by what indirect ways science sometimes advances. If Grew had only been prepared to assume some kind of sexuality in plants, he need only have taken up Theophrastus' statement, that the anther-dust of the male palm is shaken over the female to produce fertilisation ; and since both Grew and Malpighi observed the pollen in the anthers, they might at once and in reliance on this experiment of a thousand years before have come to the conclusion that the stamens are the male organs. But Grew never mentions the ancient views and experiences. Like other writers before Camerarius, he made no attempt to answer the question by experiment. It was a step in advance, when Ray in his 'Historia Plantarum ' (1693), I. cap. 10, p. 17; II. p. 1250, threw some light on the very obscure train of thought in Grew's mind, and did something to put it on the right track, by referring to the case of dioecious plants and to the old experience of the date-palm, but he too made no attempt to settle the question by experiment. The true discoverer of sexuality in plants, Camerarius, was however engaged in the experimental solution of the problem two years before the appearance of Ray's ' Historia Plantarum.' Ray's remarks on the subject in the preface to his 'Sylloge Stirpium' (1694) are only assertion founded on no experiments. But if any are prepared to attribute greater value to the utterances of Grew and Ray, the comparison of them with the way in which Camerarius addressed himself to the question will show at once, that it was he who so far advanced the theory of the subject as to make it accessible to experimental treatment, as he undoubtedly was the first who not only undertook experi- ments on the subject but carried them out with the skill which