Page:Makers of British botany.djvu/237

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191
RELATION TO HIS TIMES

found. In this connection his figuring young plants of Equisetum attached to prothalli is interesting. In some speculations concerning the embryology of Loranthus he came, by a wrong line of approach, within touch of the right comparison, when he compares the endosperm to the confervoid green growth (i.e. the prothallus) at the base of the young plant of Equisetum.

It is idle to speculate on what might have happened had such a wide observer as Griffith chanced on the clue. In this respect he was of his time as most are. The man who put the industrious but blind gropings of this period in morphological botany straight, both as regards the development of the embryo and the comparative ontogeny of archegoniate plants was Hofmeister, and like all exceptional men he belonged to the new period created by him.

The great advantage of this course of lectures seems to me to be that it approaches the study of the history of botany in the right way; for progress in our science has been the result of individuals rather than of schools. The consideration of the work of Griffith from 1832 to 1845 is a vivid illustration of the condition of morphological botany in the earlier portion of the period, surveyed in one of the chapters in Sach's History under the title of "Morphology and Systematic Botany under the influence of the History of Development and the knowledge of the Cryptogams." These two subjects were always before Griffith.

The interest of the personality of William Griffith and of the work he accomplished in his tragically short life is obvious. Not less so is the way in which that work was done inside the limitations of his period. We, who are still gleaners in the field that Griffith and his contemporaries cleared and Hofmeister marked out and tilled, are probably just as incapable of conceiving the future developments of morphology.