Famous Discoveries in Botany

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Botany is a branch of biology also known as plant science. Some areas that fall under the field of botany include reproduction, diseases, metabolism, algae, evolutionary relationships, growth and plant structure. Botany was a hobby for many doctors and scientists throughout history. In fact, many of the great botanical discoveries were made by physicians. Some of these were important for other fields of science as well, such as zoology, biology and cell biology.

Plant Gender

  • Over the course of three years, from 1691 to 1694, German botanist and physician Rudolf Jakob Camerarius discovered that plants, or plant parts, can be either male or female. When he removed the male flowers on one plant, the plant produced no seeds. He then fertilized another plant using pollen from the removed flowers, and the second plant produced seeds. Therefore, he learned, the stamens could be considered the male sexual organs and the pistil the female sexual organs of the plant. At the time, this was one of the most profound observations made in the field of botany.

Taxonomy

  • Augustin Pyrame de Candolle, a Swiss botanist, developed a standard plant classification system in 1813. His system used plant anatomy rather than plant physiology. Therefore, he developed the structural criteria needed to separate plants into different genera and species. The first explanation of this classification system, considered to be the start of plant taxonomy, was published in Candolle's book "Theorie elementaire de la botanique."

Cell Nucleus

  • Scottish botanist Robert Brown discovered the nucleus of the cell in the 1830s when observing orchids under a microscope. He determined there was only one nucleus in each cell and, while it was not fixed in a specific location, it tended to be in the center of the cell. Once he discovered the nucleus in the orchid cells, he also found it in many other monocotyledonous plants and even in some dicotyledonous plants. His discovery was published in "The Miscellaneous Botanical Works of Robert Brown" in 1866.

Photosynthesis

  • The discovery of photosynthesis occurred in 1779 by a Dutch physician, Jan Ingenhousz, who took a leave of absence from his physician job and conducted a series of experiments on plants when he was in England. He placed plants in clear containers and then submerged them. He saw that the undersides of the leaves produced bubbles when the plants were receiving sunlight. He eventually discovered that this gas was oxygen, although the entire mechanism of photosynthesis was not discovered until much later.

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