not exactly regard as a misfortune, and in the interests of the reader it is rather an advantage; for, in accordance with the objects of the 'General History of the Sciences,' this History of Botany is not intended for professional persons only, but for a wider circle of readers, and to these perhaps even the details presented in it may here and there seem wearisome.
The style of the narrative might have been freer, and greater space might have been allotted to reflections on the inner connection of the whole subject, if I had had before me better preliminary studies in the history of botany; but as things are, I have found myself especially occupied in ascertaining questions of historical fact, in distinguishing true merit from undeserved reputation, in searching out the first beginnings of fruitful thoughts and observing their development, and in more than one case in producing lengthy refutations of wide-spread errors. These things could not be done within the allotted space without a certain dryness of style and manner, and I have often been obliged to content myself with passing allusions where detailed explanation might have been desired.
As regards the choice of topics, I have given prominence to discoveries of facts only when they could be shown to have promoted the development of the science; on the other hand, I have made it my chief object to discover the first dawning of scientific ideas and to follow them as they developed into comprehensive theories, for in this lies, to my mind, the true history of a science. But the task of the historian of Botany, as thus conceived, is a very difficult one, for it is only with great labour that he succeeds in picking the real thread of scientific thought out of an incredible chaos of empirical material.