Page:History of botany (Sachs; Garnsey).djvu/25

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5
Introduction.

fishes and worms in the animal kingdom. The real resemblance of the organisms in such groups is unconsciously accepted by the mind through the association of ideas, and it is not till this involuntary mental act, which in itself requires no effort of the understanding, is accomplished, that any necessity is felt for obtaining a clearer idea of the phenomenon, and the sense of this necessity is the first step to intentional systematic enquiry. The series of botanical works published in Germany and the Netherlands from 1530 to 1623, from Brunfels to Kaspar Bauhin, shows very plainly how this perception of a grouping by affinity in the vegetable kingdom grew more and more distinct; but it also shows how these men merely followed an instinctive feeling in the matter, and made no enquiry into the cause of the relationship which they perceived.

Nevertheless a great step in advance was thus taken; all the foreign matter introduced into the description of plants by medical superstition and practical considerations was seen to be of secondary importance, and was indeed altogether thrown aside by Kaspar Bauhin; the fact of natural affinity, the vivifying principle of all botanical research, came to the front in its place, and awakened the desire to distinguish more exactly whatever was different, and to bring together more carefully all that was like in kind. Thus the idea of natural affinity in plants is not a discovery of any single botanist, but is a product, and to some extent an incidental product, of the practice of describing plants.

But before the exhibition of the natural affinity gave birth to the first efforts at classification on the part of de l'Obel (Lobelius) and afterwards of Kaspar Bauhin, the Italian botanist Cesalpino (1583) had already attempted a system of the vegetable kingdom on a very different plan. He was led to distribute all vegetable forms into definite groups not by the fact of natural affinity, which impressed itself on the minds of the botanists of Germany and the Netherlands through involuntary association