Botany. Outlines of Morphology, Physiology, and Classification of Plants. By William Kamsey McNab, M. D., F. L. S., Professor of Botany, Royal College of Science for Ireland, Dublin. Specially revised for American Students, by Charles E. Bessey, M. Sc, Ph. D., Professor of Botany in Iowa Agricultural College. New York: Henry Holt & Co. 1881. Pp. 400. Price, $1.10.
It is claimed for the American revision of McNab's work that it is less technical than the foreign book, and has been completely adapted to American use by changes in the classification, and by the introduction of American examples. There has also been a considerable simplification of the text, an omission of some paragraphs and a use of smaller type in others, so as to bring the work into the compass of one volume. Besides, the book has been divided into chapters, sections, and numbered paragraphs. It is designed for "second or middle class schools," and aims to present the "study of plants as living things, rather than their bare analysis and classification."
In clearness, conciseness, and perfect adequacy of statement, the text of this school-book leaves nothing to be desired. It is well illustrated, and may be recommended as a valuable book for general readers. But we are a little puzzled about its place as a school-book. We do not understand what the editor means by "second or middle class schools." Is it the next grade above our primary schools? Is it meant as a first book to introduce children of say a dozen years to the study of plants. If it is designed for beginners in botany, we do not hesitate to pronounce the work a mistake. To begin this study with the minute structural elements of plants which are only discernible through the microscope, and with the lower microscopical forms of vegetation, is to put the difficult and complex before the plain and apparent. It can not be claimed that vegetable anatomy is a more important division of the science than organography; but it is certainly more requisite to the comprehension of vegetable physiology, or the plant considered as a "living being." It would seem that there existed in the mind of the American editor 'a kind of partisan feeling as regards the various departments of this science, He prefers the "study of plants as living beings," to what he terms their "bare analysis and classification," and so he offers us a school-book which is neither in accord with the true order of the science of botany nor with the unfolding faculties of the pupil.
Botany has to deal with plants in respect to their kinds as well as their functions. Professor Gray, who has had some experience of the contrary method, says that the study of botany naturally begins with the structural botany of flowering plants. In his recently published "Structural Botany" he omits, as far as possible, all reference to intimate structure, development, and function, leaving these subjects to be treated in the second part of his work, which has not yet appeared, and which is devoted to physiology.
That children should begin the study of botany with organography follows, not only from a consideration of the science as a whole, but is still more obvious when we regard the particular subjects dealt with in its various divisions. In organography, distinctive names are applied to the different organs of plants and their endless variations of form. A knowledge of these terms is indispensable to the botanist, and in childhood it is acquired with ease and pleasure. This botanical vocabulary enables the student to describe the objects of his study with precision and brevity, and in its acquisition and use he is forming the all-important habit of careful observation, and is getting knowledge at first-hand or by self-teaching. In fact there is not another subject in the whole range of the sciences so well suited to the training of the dominant faculties of children in the earlier grades of our public schools as is this department of botany, which is declared on high authority to be the natural beginning of the study.
Seedless Fruits. By E. Lewis Sturtevant, M. D., South Framingham, Massachusetts. Pp. 29.
Numerous instances of plants in which such combinations occur are cited in support of the view that the abnormal development or richness of any part of a plant, as the pulp of a fine fruit, the root, or the tuber in case of the potato, is apt to be attended with deficiency, defectiveness, or entire absence of seeds.