Origin of Botany
The study of living organisms is called as Biology. In Greek language, ‘Bios’ means life and ‘Logos’ means discourse. The foundation for biology was laid from the time humans started observing the living things around them. Biology helps us to understand the morphology, physiology, reproduction, variations, evolution, geographical distribution and several other aspects related to living organisms.
It is not an exaggeration to say that what has been achieved during the past 25 years is far greated than what has been achieved during the past twenty centuries. The present period is in fact called the ‘Golden era of Biology’.
The living organisms can be grouped into plants and animals. The science related to the study of plants is called as botany and the study related to animals is called as Zoology. According to the ancient Greek terminology, ‘Bous’ means cattle and ‘Bouskein’ means cattle feed. In course of time, ‘Bouskein’ gave rise to the term ‘Botane’ and from this tem the word Botany is derived.
Development of Botany
The study and observation of plants began from ancient times, ever since humans started to depend on them for their daily needs like food, shelter, clothes, medicines etc. From this ancient in plants, the scope of botany has increased to include the study of over 5, 50, 000 kinds of species. Egyptians and Assyrians recorded information related to crop plants and fruit trees in the form of pictures. In our country, ‘Atharvana veda’ written during 2000 BC contains loads of information about medicinal plants and their uses. Parasara in 1300 BC wrote a book ‘Krishi Parasaram’, where he discussed about agriculture and about crop weeds. This is one of the oldest books on agriculture. He also wrote another book ‘Vrikshayurveda’ where he described 14 types of forests, external and internal characters of plants and also about medicinal plants
Greek philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle played a very important role in the development of botany. They stressed on the importance and usefulness of plants to the human beings. Theophrastus is regarded as the Father of Botany. He was the student of Plato and Aristotle. Theophrastus described about the external and internal characters of plants in his book, de Historia Plantarum.
Experimental studies in the field of Botany started during 16th and 17th century. This period is described as the period of herbalists. Brunfels, de L’Obel and Fuchs are some of the important herbalists of this period. Gaspard Bauhin published the description and identification of 6000 plants. He also introduced Binomial nomenclature for the first time.
Botany emerged as a specific science during 17th century. Antony Von Leeuwenhoek observed bacterial cells for the first time in living condition. Nehemiah Grew and Marcello Malphigi described the plant tissues and laid the foundation for Anatomy during 17th century. Camerarius gave description of the sexual reproduction in plants.
During 18th century there was a progress in the areas of Taxonomy and Physiology. The Swedish Botanist Carolus Von Linnaeus was responsible for the development of Plant Taxonomy. He popularized Binomial nomenclature system.
Stephen Hales showed that water is conducted through xylem and also demonstrated root pressure. Joseph Priestly proved that green parts of the plant absorb carbon dioxide and release Oxygen in the presence of sunlight.
During 19th century Gregor Johann Mendel conducted hybridization experiments on Pea plants. This marked the beginning of Genetics. Mendel introduced the law of Inheritance and was called as Father of Genetics. With the work of Haeckel, ecological studies began. Taxonomists like de Candolle, Endlicher, Bentham and Hooker proposed different classifications. Darwin put forward the Theory of Evolution.
During 20th century, Sutton and Boveri explained the role of chromosomes in heredity. Hugo de Vries discovered mutations in plants. Watson and Crick proposed the double helical model for DNA. Indian Scientists like Har Govind Khorana have contributed to the understanding of Genetic code. H G Khorana also artificially synthesized a Gene. Scientists like Skoog, Shimakura, Maheshwari have helped development of plant tissue and organ culture. Twentieth century has witnessed great advances in the branches of plant physiology also.
Robert Hill, Ruben, Arnon, Emerson have contributed in understanding light reactions of photosynthesis. Melvin Kelvin, Benson and Bassham discovered C3 pathway of carbon assimilation. Hatch and Slack discovered C4 pathway of carbon assimilation. Indian scientist Prof. C V Rama Das also contributed to the physiology of C4 plants.
Hans Krebs discovered Citric Acid Cycle in respiration. Experiments were also conducted on plant growth regulators. Many scientists like Wodehouse, PKK Nair, Turill, Vishnumitre, CGK Ramanujam, Sunirmal Chanda developed Palynology. Taxonomists like Bessy, Rendle, Hutchinson, Takhtajan, Goldberg and Thorne proposed the phylogenetic classification during 20th century.
Diversity in living organisms
There is a rich diversity among the living organisms existing on the pant Earth. These living organisms can vary in the form of habitats, habits, life span, modes of nutrition, methods of reproduction etc. These wide variations along with many other similarities make it essential to classify all the living organisms. The classification facilitates better communication and precise identification of the organisms.
Taxonomy and systematics are the two main branches of biology which deal with classification. Taxonomy (In Greek, rendering of order) deals with identification, naming and classifying the living organisms. The term taxonomy was coined by Augustin Pyramus de Candolle. Systematics (In Greek, Put together) deals with systematic placing of organisms into groups or taxa on the basis of certain relationships between them. It was Carolus Linnaeus who used this word first in his book ‘Systema Naturae’.
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