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Botany Quotes (44 quotes)

'Tis a short sight to limit our faith in laws to those of gravity, of chemistry, of botany, and so forth. Those laws do not stop where our eyes lose them, but push the same geometry and chemistry up into the invisible plane of social and rational life, so that, look where we will, in a boy's game, or in the strifes of races, a perfect reaction, a perpetual judgment keeps watch and ward.
From 'Worship', The Conduct of Life (1860) collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1866), Vol.2, 401.
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A first step in the study of civilization is to dissect it into details, and to classify these in their proper groups. Thus, in examining weapons, they are to be classed under spear, club, sling, bow and arrow, and so forth; among textile arts are to be ranged matting, netting, and several grades of making and weaving threads; myths are divided under such headings as myths of sunrise and sunset, eclipse-myths, earthquake-myths, local myths which account for the names of places by some fanciful tale, eponymic myths which account for the parentage of a tribe by turning its name into the name of an imaginary ancestor; under rites and ceremonies occur such practices as the various kinds of sacrifice to the ghosts of the dead and to other spiritual beings, the turning to the east in worship, the purification of ceremonial or moral uncleanness by means of water or fire. Such are a few miscellaneous examples from a list of hundreds … To the ethnographer, the bow and arrow is the species, the habit of flattening children’s skulls is a species, the practice of reckoning numbers by tens is a species. The geographical distribution of these things, and their transmission from region to region, have to be studied as the naturalist studies the geography of his botanical and zoological species.
In Primitive Culture (1871), Vol. 1, 7.
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Although I was four years at the University [of Wisconsin], I did not take the regular course of studies, but instead picked out what I thought would be most useful to me, particularly chemistry, which opened a new world, mathematics and physics, a little Greek and Latin, botany and and geology. I was far from satisfied with what I had learned, and should have stayed longer.
[Enrolled in Feb 1861, left in 1863 without completing a degree, and began his first botanical foot journey.]
John Muir
The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (1913), 286.
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And all their botany is Latin names.
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And indeed I am not humming,
Thus to sing of Cl-ke and C-ming,
Who all the universe surpasses
in cutting up and making gases;
With anatomy and chemics,
Metaphysics and polemics,
Analyzing and chirugery,
And scientific surgery …
H-slow's lectures on the cabbage
Useful are as roots of Babbage;
Fluxions and beet-root botany,
Some would call pure monotony.
Punch in Cambridge (28 Jan 1834). In Mark Weatherall, Gentlemen, Scientists, and Medicine at Cambridge 1800-1940 (2000), Vol. 3,77. The professors named were William Clark (anatomy), James Cumming (chemistry) and Johns Stephens Henslow (botany).
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Botany is based on fixed genera.
Philosophia Botanica (1751), aphorism 209. Trans. Frans A. Stafleu, Linnaeus and the Linnaeans: The Spreading of their Ideas in Systematic Botany, 1735-1789 (1971), 64.
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Botany is the school for patience, and it’s amateurs learn resignation from daily disappointments.
In letter to Madame de Tessé (25 Apr 1788). In Thomas Jefferson Correspondence: Printed from the Originals (1916), 7. The errant apostrophe in “it’s” appears in more than one texts checked by Webmaster.
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Botany is the science in which plants are known by their aliases.
Quoted in M. Goran, A Treasury of Science Jokes (1986), 49.

BOTANY, n. The science of vegetables—those that are not good to eat, as well as those that are. It deals largely with their flowers, which are commonly badly designed, inartistic in color, and ill-smelling.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  40.
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Botany, the eldest daughter of medicine.
As written in Outlines of the History of Medicine and the Medical Profession, translated by Henry Ebenezer Handerson (1889), 843. The expression 'daughter of medicine' has been applied by other authors to other disciplines. Baas may have simply recorded this example from common use.
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Botany,—the science of the vegetable kingdom, is one of the most attractive, most useful, and most extensive departments of human knowledge. It is, above every other, the science of beauty.
In Joseph Paxton (using pseudonym Peter Parley), Peter Parley's Cyclopedia of Botany (1838), ix.
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Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.
(circa 325 A.D.)
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Doubtless many can recall certain books which have greatly influenced their lives, and in my own case one stands out especially—a translation of Hofmeister's epoch-making treatise on the comparative morphology of plants. This book, studied while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, was undoubtedly the most important factor in determining the trend of my botanical investigation for many years.
D.H. Campbell, 'The Centenary of Wilhelm Hofmeister', Science (1925), 62, No. 1597, 127-128. Cited in William C. Steere, Obituary, 'Douglas Houghton Campbell', American Bryological and Lichenological Society, The Bryologist (1953), 127. The book to which Cambell refers is W. Hofmeister, On the Germination, Development, and Fructification of the Higher Cryptogamia, and on the Fructification of the Coniferae, trans. by Frederick Currey (1862).
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Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies;—
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
In The Holy Grail: and Other Poems (1870), 165.
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Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.
Unverified despite trying. Please contact webmaster if you can identify a primary source.
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Geology is intimately related to almost all the physical sciences, as is history to the moral. An historian should, if possible, be at once profoundly acquainted with ethics, politics, jurisprudence, the military art, theology; in a word, with all branches of knowledge, whereby any insight into human affairs, or into the moral and intellectual nature of man, can be obtained. It would be no less desirable that a geologist should be well versed in chemistry, natural philosophy, mineralogy, zoology, comparative anatomy, botany; in short, in every science relating to organic and inorganic nature. With these accomplishments the historian and geologist would rarely fail to draw correct and philosophical conclusions from the various monuments transmitted to them of former occurrences.
Principles of Geology (1830-3), Vol. 1, 2-3.
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History records the names of royal bastards, but it cannot tell us the origin of wheat.
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How to start on my adventure—how to become a forester—was not so simple. There were no schools of Forestry in America. … Whoever turned his mind toward Forestry in those days thought little about the forest itself and more about its influences, and about its influence on rainfall first of all. So I took a course in meteorology, which has to do with weather and climate. and another in botany, which has to do with the vegetable kingdom—trees are unquestionably vegetable. And another in geology, for forests grow out of the earth. Also I took a course in astronomy, for it is the sun which makes trees grow. All of which is as it should be, because science underlies the forester’s knowledge of the woods. So far I was headed right. But as for Forestry itself, there wasn’t even a suspicion of it at Yale. The time for teaching Forestry as a profession was years away.
In Breaking New Ground (1947, 1998), 3.
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I am above the forest region, amongst grand rocks & such a torrent as you see in Salvator Rosa's paintings vegetation all a scrub of rhodods. with Pines below me as thick & bad to get through as our Fuegian Fagi on the hill tops, & except the towering peaks of P. S. [perpetual snow] that, here shoot up on all hands there is little difference in the mt scenery—here however the blaze of Rhod. flowers and various colored jungle proclaims a differently constituted region in a naturalists eye & twenty species here, to one there, always are asking me the vexed question, where do we come from?
Letter to Charles Darwin (24 Jun 1849). Quoted in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin (1988), Vol. 4, 1847-1850, 242.
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I am sorry that the distinguished leader of the Republican Party in the House states that he is not versed in botany and publicly admits that he does not know anything of these terms or what it is all about; but, Mr. Chairman, it is indeed a sad day for the people of this country when we must close the doors of the laboratories doing research work for the people of the United States.
Speaking (28 Dec 1932) as a member of the 72nd Congress, early in the Great Depression, in opposition to an attempt to eliminate a small amount from the agricultural appropriation bill. As quoted in 'Mayor-Elect La Guardia on Research', Science (1933), New Series, 78, No. 2031, 511.
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I observed on most collected stones the imprints of innumerable plant fragments which were so different from those which are growing in the Lyonnais, in the nearby provinces, and even in the rest of France, that I felt like collecting plants in a new world... The number of these leaves, the way they separated easily, and the great variety of plants whose imprints I saw, appeared to me just as many volumes of botany representing in the same quarry the oldest library of the world.
'Examen des causes des Impressions des Plantes marquees sur certaines Pierres des environs de Saint-Chaumont dans Ie Lionnais', Memoires de l' Academie Royale des Sciences (1718), 364. Trans. Albert V. and Marguerite Carozzi.
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I pull a flower from the woods,
A monster with a glass
Computes the stamens in a breath,
And has her in a class.
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I shall collect plants and fossils, and with the best of instruments make astronomic observations. Yet this is not the main purpose of my journey. I shall endeavor to find out how nature's forces act upon one another, and in what manner the geographic environment exerts its influence on animals and plants. In short, I must find out about the harmony in nature.
Letter to Karl Freiesleben (Jun 1799). In Helmut de Terra, Humboldt: The Life and Times of Alexander van Humboldt 1769-1859 (1955), 87.
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I wandered away on a glorious botanical and geological excursion, which has lasted nearly fifty years and is not yet completed, always happy and free, poor and rich, without thought of a diploma or of making a name, urged on and on through endless, inspiring Godful beauty.
[Shortly after leaving university in 1863, without completing a degree, at age 25, he began his first botanical foot journey along the Wisconsin River to the Mississippi.]
John Muir
The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (1913), 286.
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I … object to dividing the study of living processes into botany, zoology, and microbiology because by any such arrangement, the interrelations within the biological community get lost. Corals cannot be studied without reference to the algae that live with them; flowering plants without the insects that pollinate them; grasslands without the grazing mammals.
In The Forest and the Sea (1960), 7.
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If we range through the whole territory of nature, and endeavour to extract from each department the rich stores of knowledge and pleasure they respectively contain, we shall not find a more refined or purer source of amusement, or a more interesting and unfailing subject for recreation, than that which the observation and examination of the structure, affinities, and habits of plants and vegetables, afford.
In A Practical Treatise on the Cultivation of the Dahlia (1838), 2.
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In all our academies we attempt far too much. ... In earlier times lectures were delivered upon chemistry and botany as branches of medicine, and the medical student learned enough of them. Now, however, chemistry and botany are become sciences of themselves, incapable of comprehension by a hasty survey, and each demanding the study of a whole life, yet we expect the medical student to understand them. He who is prudent, accordingly declines all distracting claims upon his time, and limits himself to a single branch and becomes expert in one thing.
Quoted in Johann Hermann Baas, Henry Ebenezer Handerson (trans.), Outlines of the History of Medicine and the Medical Profession (1889), 842-843.
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It is customary to connect Medicine with Botany, yet scientific treatment demands that we should consider each separately. For the fact is that in every art, theory must be disconnected and separated from practice, and the two must be dealt with singly and individually in their proper order before they are united. And for that reason, in order that Botany, which is, as it were, a special branch of Natural Philosophy [Physica], may form a unit by itself before it can be brought into connection with other sciences, it must be divided and unyoked from Medicine.
Methodi herbariae libri tres (1592), translated in Agnes Arber, Herbals: Their Origin and Evolution, 2nd edition (1938), 144.
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It is difficult to conceive a grander mass of vegetation:—the straight shafts of the timber-trees shooting aloft, some naked and clean, with grey, pale, or brown bark; others literally clothed for yards with a continuous garment of epiphytes, one mass of blossoms, especially the white Orchids Caelogynes, which bloom in a profuse manner, whitening their trunks like snow. More bulky trunks were masses of interlacing climbers, Araliaceae, Leguminosae, Vines, and Menispermeae, Hydrangea, and Peppers, enclosing a hollow, once filled by the now strangled supporting tree, which has long ago decayed away. From the sides and summit of these, supple branches hung forth, either leafy or naked; the latter resembling cables flung from one tree to another, swinging in the breeze, their rocking motion increased by the weight of great bunches of ferns or Orchids, which were perched aloft in the loops. Perpetual moisture nourishes this dripping forest: and pendulous mosses and lichens are met with in profusion.
Himalayan Journals (1854), vol. 1, 110-1.
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It is much better to learn the elements of geology, of botany, or ornithology and astronomy by word of mouth from a companion than dully from a book.
'Concord Walks'. The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1904), Vol. 12, 176.
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It is, I find, in zoology as it is in botany: all nature is so full, that that district produces the greatest variety which is the most examined.
Letter XX to Thomas Pennant (8 Oct 1768), in The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789), 55.
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It’s humbling to think that all animals, including human beings, are parasites of the plant world.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 39.
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Nomenclature, the other foundation of botany, should provide the names as soon as the classification is made... If the names are unknown knowledge of the things also perishes... For a single genus, a single name.
Philosophia Botanica (1751), aphorism 210. Trans. Frans A. Stafleu, Linnaeus and the Linnaeans: The Spreading of their Ideas in Systematic Botany, 1735-1789 (1971), 80.
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Something is as little explained by means of a distinctive vital force as the attraction between iron and magnet is explained by means of the name magnetism. We must therefore firmly insist that in the organic natural sciences, and thus also in botany, absolutely nothing has yet been explained and the entire field is still open to investigation as long as we have not succeeded in reducing the phenomena to physical and chemical laws.
Grundzüge der Wissenschaftlichen Botanik nebst einer Methodologischen Einleitung als Anleitung zum Studium der Planze [Principles of Scientific Botany] (1842-3), Vol. 1, 49. Trans. Kenneth L. Caneva, Robert Mayer and the Conservation of Energy (1993), 108.
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The application of botanical and zoological evidence to determine the relative age of rocks—this chronometry of the earth's surface which was already present to the lofty mind of Hooke—indicates one of the most glorious epochs of modern geognosy, which has finally, on the Continent at least, been emancipated from the way of Semitic doctrines. Palaeontological investigations have imparted a vivifying breath of grace and diversity to the science of the solid structure of the earth.
Cosmos: A Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe (1845-62), trans. E. C. Due (1849), Vol. 1, 272.
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The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add an useful plant to its culture; especially, a bread grain; next in value to bread is oil.
In Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies from the Papers of T. Jefferson (1829), Vol. 1, 144.
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The little beggars are doing just what I don’t want them to.
Referring to his garden plants.
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The naturalists, you know, distribute the history of nature into three kingdoms or departments: zoology, botany, mineralogy. Ideology, or mind, however, occupies so much space in the field of science, that we might perhaps erect it into a fourth kingdom or department. But inasmuch as it makes a part of the animal construction only, it would be more proper to subdivide zoology into physical and moral.
Letter (24 Mar 1824) to Mr. Woodward. Collected in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson: Correspondence (1854), 339.
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The rudest numerical scales, such as that by which the mineralogists distinguish different degrees of hardness, are found useful. The mere counting of pistils and stamens sufficed to bring botany out of total chaos into some kind of form. It is not, however, so much from counting as from measuring, not so much from the conception of number as from that of continuous quantity, that the advantage of mathematical treatment comes. Number, after all, only serves to pin us down to a precision in our thoughts which, however beneficial, can seldom lead to lofty conceptions, and frequently descend to pettiness.
On the Doctrine of Chances, with Later Reflections (1878), 61-2.
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The sciences of Natural History and Botany require so much time to be devoted to them that, however pleasing, they may be justly considered as improper objects for the man of business to pursue scientifically, so as to enter into the exact arrangement and classification of the different bodies of the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms. But reading and personal observation will supply him with ample matter for reflection and admiration.
'On the Advantages of Literature and Philosophy in general and especially on the Consistency of Literary and Philosophical with Commercial Pursuits' (Read 3 Oct 1781). As quoted in Robert Angus Smith, A Centenary of Science in Manchester (1883), 79.
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There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.
Letter (23 Dec 1790) to Martha Jefferson Randolph. Collected in B.L. Rayner (ed.), Sketches of the Life, Writings, and Opinions of Thomas Jefferson (1832), 192.
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These parsons are so in the habit of dealing with the abstractions of doctrines as if there was no difficulty about them whatever, so confident, from the practice of having the talk all to themselves for an hour at least every week with no one to gainsay a syllable they utter, be it ever so loose or bad, that they gallop over the course when their field is Botany or Geology as if we were in the pews and they in the pulpit ... There is a story somewhere of an Englishman, Frenchman, and German being each called on to describe a camel. The Englishman immediately embarked for Egypt, the Frenchman went to the Jardin des Plantes, and the German shut himself up in his study and thought it out!
Letter to Asa Gray (29 Mar 1857). Quoted in Leonard Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (1918), Vol. 1, 477.
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This is all very fine, but it won't do—Anatomy—botany—Nonsense! Sir, I know an old woman in Covent Garden, who understands botany better, and as for anatomy, my butcher can dissect a joint full as well; no, young man, all that is stuff; you must go to the bedside, it is there alone you can learn disease!
Comment to Hans Sloane on Robert Boyle's letter of introduction describing Sloane as a 'ripe scholar, a good botanist, a skilful anatomist'.
Quoted in John D. Comrie, 'Life of Thomas Sydenham, M. D.', in Comrie (ed.), Selected Works of Thomas Sydenham (1922), 2.
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[The root cap of a plant], having the power of directing the movements of the adjoining parts, acts like the brain of one of the lower animals; the brain being seated within the anterior end of the body, receiving impressions from the sense-organs, and directing the several movements.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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