Page:Makers of British botany.djvu/20

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6
INTRODUCTION

the Cambridge University Press[1], it has not seemed necessary on the present occasion to traverse the ground again.


The reader of The Makers of British Botany will judge, and we think rightly, that Botany has had its ups and downs in this country. At the end of the seventeenth century England was contributing her full share to the foundation and advancement of the subject. In the field of Systematic Botany Ray, at any rate, left his permanent influence as a taxonomist, whilst in Plant Anatomy, the offspring of the newly invented microscope, Grew divided the honours with his brilliant contemporary Malpighi. A few years later Stephen Hales was carrying out the famous experiments which are embodied in his Vegetable Staticks, entitling him to be justly regarded as the Father of plant physiology. Notwithstanding so admirable a beginning, the next century was almost a blank. The essay on John Hill serves to illustrate the sterility of this period. The dominant influence in Botany in the eighteenth century was that of Linnaeus, whose genius as a taxonomist gave the most wonderful impulse to the study of Botany that it has ever received. Shorn of its accumulated dead-weight of nomenclature, the simplified Botany of Linnaeus took deep root in this country and here for a century it reigned supreme as a source of inspiration. Fed on unlimited collections of plants from all parts of a growing Empire, it is hardly surprising that a great British school of Systematic Botany led by Robert Brown, the Hookers, Lindley and Bentham should have arisen. What is remarkable is the almost exclusive persistence of this branch of Botany for more than a generation after the establishment and recognition of other departments on the continent of Europe. Whilst we made a shrine for the Linnaean collections, so far as we were concerned Grew and Hales might never have lived; even the rational and scientific morphology created by Hofmeister in the forties of last century failed to deflect us from our course!

It was only in the later seventies that the New Botany came to England, whither it was imported from Germany. For a while, as was to be expected, our Universities were kept busy