Page:History of botany (Sachs; Garnsey).djvu/40

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[Book I.
Botanists of Germany and the Netherlands

Konrad Gesner[1] was the only one who bestowed a closer attention on the flowers and parts of the fruits; he figured them repeatedly, and recognised their great value for the determination of affinity, as we learn from his expressions in his letters; but the much occupied and much harassed man died before he could complete the work on plants which he had long been preparing, and when in the 18th century Schmiedel published Gesner's figures, which meanwhile had passed through various hands, the work too long delayed remained useless to a science which had already outstripped it.

It will be gathered from the above remarks, that we find in these authors no approach to a system of morphology founded on a comparative examination of the parts of plants, and therefore no regular technical language. Still the more learned among them felt the necessity of connecting the words they used in describing a plant with a fixed sense, of defining their conceptions; and though their first efforts in this direction were weak, they deserve notice, because they show more than anything else how great has been the advance in the study of nature from the 16th century to the present day.

The first attempt to establish a botanical terminology is to be found as early as 1542 in the 'Historia Stirpium' of Leonhard Fuchs[2]. Four pages at the beginning of the work are thus occupied. A considerable number of words are explained in alphabetical order—the mode of arrangement which he followed also in describing his plants. It is difficult

  1. Konrad Gesner, born in Zurich in 1516, became after many vicissitudes of fortune Professor of Natural History in his native town, and died there of the plague in 1565. See Ernst Meyer, 'Geschichte der Botanik,' iv.
  2. Leonhard Fuchs, born at Membdingen in Bavaria in 1501, was a student of the classics under Reuchlin in Ingolstadt in 1519, and became Doctor of Medicine in 1524. Owing to his conversion to Protestantism he led an unsettled life for some years, but was finally made Professor of Medicine in Tubingen in 1535, and died there in 1566. See Meyer, 'Geschichte der Botanik,' iv.