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botany, science devoted to the study of plants. Botany, microbiology, and zoology together compose the science of biology. Humanity's earliest concern with plants was with their practical uses, i.e., for fuel, clothing, shelter, and, particularly, food and drugs. The establishment of botany as an intellectual science came in classical times. In the 4th cent. B.C., Aristotle and his pupil Theophrastus worked out descriptions and principles of plant types and functions that remained the prototype for botanical observation for 1,000 years. During the stagnant period of the Middle Ages the knowledge of the classical scholars was preserved in the European monasteries and by the Arabs in the Middle East. In the 16th and 17th cent. an interest in botany revived in Europe and spread to America by way of European conquest and colonization. At that time both botany and the art of gardening (see garden) stressed the utility of plants for man; the popular herbal, describing the medical uses of plants, mingled current superstition with fact. In the late 17th and the 18th cent. the influence of the ancient scholars was modified by the growth of scientific botany. Through careful and accurate observation the sciences of taxonomy and morphology (see biology) were developed, providing the basis for the first systematic classification of organisms, chiefly in the work of Linnaeus. With the microscope came the development of plant anatomy and research on the cell. New knowledge of the principles of chemistry and physics spurred experimentation in plant physiology, notably the early work of Stephen Hales on the sources and manufacture of plant food, which led to studies of such basic processes as photosynthesis. Modern botany has expanded into all areas of biology, including molecular biology, and has developed such specialties as ethnobotany, which studies the use of plants in preindustrial societies. Perhaps most significant was the work of Mendel in plant breeding at the middle (1859) of the 19th cent., from which grew the science of genetics. Allied with experimental botany are the various practical aspects that have developed into specific scientific disciplines (e.g., agriculture, agronomy, horticulture, and forestry).


See J. von Sachs, History of Botany (tr. 1890, repr. 1967); C. L. Wilson and W. E. Loomis, Botany (4th ed. 1967); C. B. Lees, Gardens, Plants and Man (1970); A. G. Morton, History of Botanical Science (1981).

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That branch of biological science which embraces the study of plants and plant life. Botanical studies may range from microscopic observations of the smallest and obscurest plants to the study of the trees of the forest. One botanist may be interested mainly in the relationships among plants and in their geographic distribution, whereas another may be primarily concerned with structure or with the study of the life processes taking place in plants.

Botany may be divided by subject matter into several specialties, such as plant anatomy, plant chemistry, plant cytology, plant ecology (including autecology and synecology), plant embryology, plant genetics, plant morphology, plant physiology, plant taxonomy, ethnobotany, and paleobotany. It may also be divided according to the group of plants being studied; for example, agostology, the study of grasses; algology (phycology), the study of algae; bryology, the study of mosses; mycology, the study of fungi; and pteridology, the study of ferns. Bacteriology and virology are also parts of botany in a broad sense. Furthermore, a number of agricultural subjects have botany as their foundation. Among these are agronomy, floriculture, forestry, horticulture, landscape architecture, and plant breeding. See Agriculture, Agronomy, Bacteriology, Cell biology, Ecology, Genetics, Plant anatomy, Plant growth, Plant morphogenesis, Plant pathology, Plant physiology, Plant taxonomy

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Bioscience. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the science of plants. Botany comprises an extensive range of topics: the regularities in the external and internal structure of plants (morphology and anatomy); their classification, development in the course of geological time (evolution), and interrelationships (phylogeny); the peculiarities of their past and present distribution over the earth’s surface (plant geography); their interrelationship with their environment (plant ecology); the composition of the plant cover (phytocoenology or geobotany); and the possibilities and means of using plants economically (study of plant resources, or economic botany). Botany is divided into categories according to the object of investigation: phycology or algology, the study of algae; mycology, the study of fungi; lichenology, the study of lichens; and bryology, the study of mosses. The study of microscopic organisms primarily from the plant world (bacteria, actinomycetes, certain fungi, and algae) is a separate science called microbiology. Diseases of plants caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi are studied by the field of phytopathology.

The basic botanical discipline, the classification of plants, divides the diverse forms of the plant kingdom into mutually coordinated natural groups, or taxons (classifications), establishes a rational system for naming them (nomenclature), and explains the family (evolutionary) interrelationships among them (phylogeny). In the past, classification was based on the external morphological characteristics of plants and their geographical distribution. Now the classification system also uses the characteristics of the internal structure of plants and peculiarities of plant cell structure and chromosomal apparatus, as well as the chemical composition and ecological peculiarities of plants. The establishment of the species composition of the plant life (flora) of a given territory is usually called floristics; the elucidation of the areas of distribution (areas) of the individual species, genera, and families is called chorology (phytochorology). The study of trees and shrubs is sometimes assigned to a separate discipline, dendrology.

Closely associated with classification is plant morphology, which studies the form of plants in the process of individual development (ontogeny) and historical development (phylogeny). In a narrow sense, morphology studies the external form of plants and their parts. In a broader sense, morphology includes plant anatomy, which studies internal structure of plants; embryology, which investigates the formation and development of the embryonic plant; and cytology, which studies the structure of plant cells. Some branches of plant morphology are divided into special disciplines according to their applied or theoretical significance: organography describes the parts and organs of plants; palynology studies plant pollens and spores; carpology describes and classifies fruits; and teratology studies the irregularities and deformities in plant structures. There are separate fields of comparative, evolutionary, and ecological plant morphology.

The study of plants in their interrelationship with their environment is conducted by several branches of botany sometimes united under the general heading plant ecology. In a narrow sense, ecology studies the effect of the environment on the plant as well as the various adaptations of plants to the peculiarities of that environment. On the earth’s surface, plants form definite associations, or phytocoenoses, which are repeated in more or less significant territories (forests, steppes, meadows, and savannas). The branch of botany that studies these associations is called geobotany in the USSR, or phytocoenology; abroad it is often called phytosociology. Depending upon the object of investigation, geobotany is divided into the study of forests, the study of meadows, the study of tundras, the study of swamps, and so forth. In a broader sense, geobotany consists of the study of ecosystems, or biogeocenology, which studies the interrelationships of the plant cover, fauna, soil, and underlying rock. This complex is called biogeocenosis. The distribution of individual species of plants on the earth’s surface is studied by plant geography, and the peculiarities of the distribution of the plant cover on the earth in relation to contemporary conditions and the historical past are studied by botanical geography.

The science of fossil plants—paleobotany or phyto-paleontology—has primary significance in reconstructing the history of the development of the plant kingdom. The data of paleobotany are extremely important in solving many problems of plant classification, morphology (including anatomy), and the historical geography of plants. This information is also useful in geology (historical geography and stratigraphy).

The useful properties of wild plants and the possibilities for cultivating them are studied by economic botany (study of plant resources). Ethnobotany, which studies the use of plants by various ethnic groups of the world population, is closely associated with economic botany. An important branch of applied botany is the study of the wild plants related to cultivated plants. These wild plants have valuable properties (such as immunity to diseases, drought resistance, and so forth).

Plant physiology and biochemistry are not always regarded as branches of botany because many physiological and biochemical processes that occur in plants are analogous or even identical to those which occur in animal organisms and can be studied by similar methods. Nevertheless, plant physiology and plant biochemistry are distinguished by a number of specific features that belong exclusively or almost exclusively to plants. For this reason, it is not easy to separate plant physiology and biochemistry from botany; especially since the physiological and biochemical peculiarities of plants can be considered taxonomic features that are therefore interesting to those who classify plants. These peculiarities are extremely important for an understanding of the problems of ecology and geobotany, plant geography and botanical geography, economic botany, and so forth. Plant genetics is usually considered a division of general genetics, although several of its branches (population genetics and cytogenics) are closely associated with classification—particularly biosystematy—and plant ecology and geobotany.

The boundaries between the above-enumerated divisions of botany are largely arbitrary. Their methods frequently overlap and they use the same data. It is difficult to determine the place of such sciences as physiological anatomy and ecological physiology or to distinguish the use of chemical peculiarities of plants in classification (chemosystematy) from comparative plant biochemistry. In addition to this, there is the extremely narrow specialization of the individual divisions of botany.

Botany is closely related to many other sciences. It is associated with geology through paleobotany and indicator geobotany (the use of features of certain plants and their environment as indicators of certain useful fossils); with chemistry, through biochemistry, physiology, economic botany, and pharmacognosis; with soil science and physical geography, through ecology and geobotany; and with the technical sciences, through economic botany. Botany is the natural history foundation of agriculture and forestry, as well as of landscaping in cities, health resorts, and parks. Botany also solves many problems in the food, textile, cellulose and paper, microbiological, and woodworking industries. However, the most important task of botany is the study of the laws of development and conservation of man’s environment—the biosphere—and, above all, of the plant kingdom, the phytosphere.

Botany makes use of observation, as well as comparative, historical, and experimental methods, including the gathering and assembling of collections, observations in the field and in experimental stations, experiments in nature and under specialized laboratory conditions, and mathematical treatment of the data obtained. Together with the classical methods of registering the distinguishing traits of the plants under study, botany also uses the whole arsenal of contemporary chemical, physiological, and cybernetic methods of investigation, as well as the classical methods of registering various distinguishing features of the plants under study.

Basic stages in the development of botanyTHE ORIGINS OF BOTANY. Botany developed as a structured system of knowledge about plants toward the 17th and 18th centuries. Nevertheless, even primitive man knew a great deal about plants, since his life was connected with useful plants, mainly those used for food, medicine, and poison. Texts that may be considered botanical to some extent are known from ancient literary monuments of Mesopotamia (Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyria) and the Nile Valley (ancient Egypt). These texts, as well as the legendary Chinese book about herbs, Pen ts’ao, which dates to the end of the third millennium B.C., are works on applied botany; that is, they basically contain information on nutritive and medicinal plants. The first books in which plants are described in connection with more than their usefulness are the works of the Greek scholars Aristotle and, particularly, his student Theophras-tus, who made the first attempt in the history of science to classify plants by dividing them into trees, shrubs, semi-shrubs, and herbs. He made further subdivisions in the herb group for perennial, biennial, and annual plants. Theophrastus was called the father of botany. He distinctly presented the structure of a flower, particularly the position of the ovary in it, and distinguished between gamo-petalous and polypetalous corollas. In his Inquiry Into Plants he described about 480 plants. In his Natural History the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder cited all the information about nature known to his contemporaries. He mentioned about 1,000 species of plants and described them quite precisely.

During the approximately 1,500 years after the time of Theophrastus and Pliny the Elder, the accumulation of knowledge about plants took place primarily outside of Europe. In India in the first millennium B.C. the so-called Ayur-Veda, or Knowledge of Life, appeared. It included a description of many medicinal plants of India. Commentaries and additions to the Ayur-Veda are contained in the works of the Indian physicians Charaka (tenth to eighth centuries B.C), Susruta, and Vadbaka (eighth to seventh centuries B.C.). The Arab expansion in the second half of the first millennium A.D. significantly broadened the horizons of antiquity. The works of the Tadzhik scholar Ibn Sina (Avi-cenna), who described many plants previously unknown to Europeans in the work The Canon of Medicine, have special significance. The only achievement of European science in the area of botany was the work of the German philosopher and naturalist Albert von Bollstädt (Albert the Great). His work was based particularly on establishing the difference between the stem structures of monocotyledonous and dicotyledonous plants.

BOTANY AT THE END OF THE MIDDLE AGES. During the age of great discoveries there was a significant revival of interest in plants, basically as sources of medicines, spices, and new food products. Herbals appeared and were soon published; they described an ever increasing number of plants. The first “dried gardens,” or herbaria, were created, and real botanical gardens were organized. All this facilitated the accumulation of new facts and the creation of the first general concepts, primarily in the area of plant classification. Thus, the German botanist O. Brunfels distinguished “complete” plants, or those with flowers, from “incomplete” ones, or those without flowers. The Italian physician and botanist A. Cesalpino (or Caesalpinus in Latin) published the most important botanical work of the age, the book On Plants. In its introduction he tried to classify plants. To the traditional division of plants into trees, shrubs, and herbs he added information about the features of flowers, fruits, and seeds. The Swiss botanist Johann Bauhin (Jean Bauhin) described about 5,000 plants in his Universal History of Plants, published posthumously in 1650. To his brother, Gaspard Bauhin, botany owes the creation of binomial nomenclature—that is, the naming of each plant with two words, the first of which signifies the genus, and the second, the species. As is well known, such a system of naming plants was later codified by C. Linnaeus and still exists today.

BOTANY IN THE 16TH AND 17TH CENTURIES. The 16th and 17th centuries are characterized by more than the development of classification. The invention of the microscope led to the discovery of the cell structure of plants. The first observations in this field were made by the English scientist R. Hooke. Later, the Italian M. Malpighi and the Englishman N. Grew laid the foundations of plant anatomy. The Dutchman J. B. van Helmont performed the first experiment in plant physiology. He grew a willow branch in a barrel and established that a weight increase of nearly 40 times the original weight over five years was not accompanied by any significant decrease in the weight of the soil. The German botanist R. Camerarius first proved the existence of sexual processes in plants.

In Russia in the 15th through 17th centuries descriptions of medicinal plants (herbals, or vertogrady, as they were then called) were translated from Greek, Latin, and the European languages, rewritten, and later printed. Many of these were published with an account of local conditions. Additions to these works were primarily indications of the places of origin of the plants (for example, “this plant grows in Rus’ in Dragomilov”).

BOTANY IN THE 18TH CENTURY. Discoveries in various fields of botany in the 18th century and the working out of various concepts produced results later. Nevertheless, this century may be characterized basically as a century of botanical classification and is associated primarily with the name of the Swedish botanist C. Linnaeus. Making the structure of the flower the basis of his artificial system, Linnaeus divided the plant kingdom into 24 classes. Linnaeus’ system did not long outlive him, but it has great significance in the history of botany. For the first time, it was shown that each plant could be placed into some determined category corresponding to its own characteristic features. The truly titanic work done by Linnaeus was the basis of all subsequent investigations in the field of plant classification. Linnaeus’ younger contemporaries—the Frenchman M. Adan-son, J. Lamarck, and especially the three de Jussieu brothers (Antoine, Bernard, and Joseph) and their nephew Antoine Laurent—based their work on the work of Linnaeus (as well as the work of D. Ray, K. Bauhin, and J. Tournefort). They worked out a natural classification of plants in which “relationship” was the basis for one or another systematic group. In this context, the term “relationship” meant an undefined “natural affinity.”

Outstanding naturalists of the 18th century gave much attention to general questions of botany. Thus, in his Theory of Generation (1759), the Russian academician K. F. Vol’f described the process of development of organs in plants and the transformation of some organs into others. These ideas especially interested the poet Goethe. In 1790 he published the book The Metamorphosis of Plants, which is full of brilliant insights. The existence of sex in plants was definitely established by the German botanists J. Kölreuter and C. Sprengel. Kölreuter obtained and carefully studied interspecific hybrids of tobacco, sweet william, and other plants, and also investigated their pollination by insects. Sprengel published the book The Newly Revealed Mystery of Nature in the Structure and Fertilization of Flowers (1793).

In the 18th century in Russia there was a rapid development of scientific research, especially in the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, which was founded by Peter I the Great. Botanical collections were first gathered in its Kunstkamera. In 1714 the Aptekarskii Ogorod (Pharmaceutical Garden) was organized; this was the basis of the future Imperial Botanical Garden and the modern Botanical Institute. The geographical expeditions of the Academy of Sciences had particular significance for the development of Russian and world botany. Participants in these expeditions included the botanists S. P. Krasheninnikov, who published A Description of the Land Kamchatka, and I. G. Gmelin, author of the four-volume Flora of Siberia, one of the first floras of such an extensive area. Valuable works about the flora of various regions of Russia, including data about useful plants, were compiled by I. I. Lepekhin, N. Ia. Ozeretskovskii, P. S. Pallas, and K. F. Ledebur.

BOTANY IN THE 19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES. The 19th century was characterized by the rapid development of natural science as a whole. All branches of botany grew rapidly. C. Darwin’s theory of evolution had a decisive influence on classification. Accepted by most scientists, Darwin’s theory presented the problem of creating a phylogenetic system for the plant kingdom that would reflect the successive stages of development of plants. The first systems of the 19th century were proposed by the Swiss botanists A. P. de Candolle and his son A. de Candolle and the English botanists G. Bentham, W. Hooker, and others (between 1825 and 1845 approximately 25 similar plant classification systems were proposed). These systems did not yet consider the problem of the derivation of one group of plants from other groups, but they strove for maximum “naturalness”—that is, for the grouping of plants most similar to each other in their most important organizational features. Operating with a great number of plants from virtually all the continents, these systems (especially Bentham and Hooker’s, and to some extent, de Candolle’s) were so logically constructed that they have lasted until the present. Bentham and Hooker’s system has lasted in English and to some extent, in North American botanical circles, while de Candolle’s system has lasted among botanists in French-speaking countries.

Nevertheless, the future belonged to the phylogenetic systems, the first of which was compiled by the German botanist A. W. Eichler and published in 1875. The most widely used system was that of the German botanist A. Eng-ler. He and his colleagues carried the plant classification system as far as genera, and even as far as species in some cases, in the 20-volume work Natural Plant Families (1887–1911). Research done primarily in the first half of the 20th century showed that the majority of principles proposed by Engler as the basis of his system were false, but his work should not be underestimated. Opponents of Engler’s views were the American botanist C. Bessey, the German H. Hal-lier, and the Englishman J. Hutchinson. The basis of their disagreement with Engler was related to the classification of angiosperms (flowering plants). They believed that polycar-pic plants (such as the magnolia) were the most primitive group of angiosperms. Engler believed that monocotyledons were the original group of angiosperms and so-called catkin-flowered plants (such as willows and poplars) were the most primitive dicotyledons. Among his opponents were also the Russian botanists Kh. Ia. Gobi, B. M. Kozo-Polianskii, A. A. Grossgeim, and others. In recent years there has been some unanimity in the opinions of botanists on the principles of constructing a classification of higher plants. The system worked out by the Soviet botanist A. L. Takhtadzhian has received wide recognition.

No less attention was given to the lower plants during the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. As a result of the work of the mycologist C. H. Person, who worked in Germany and France, the Swedish lichenologist E. Acharius, the Russian botanists L. S. Tsenkovskii and I. N. Goro-zhankin, the German mycologists A. de Bary and O. Bre-feld, the Russian mycologist M. S. Voronin, the Soviet botanist A. A. Iachevskii, and many others, extensive information on algae, fungi, and lichens was collected. This facilitated not only the construction of their rational classification but also the evaluation of their significance in the biosphere. Mycology in particular underwent development, primarily in connection with the importance of fungi as causes of diseases of agricultural plants. The development of phytopathology as a special discipline was also related to this.

The study of the distribution of plants on the earth is associated with the 19th and early 20th centuries. The founder of plant geography was the German naturalist A. Humboldt, the author of a series of works, the most famous of which was On the Laws Observed in the Distribution of Plants (vols. 1–2, 1816). The first attempt to describe the earth’s plant life in relation to climatic conditions was made by the German scientist A. Grisebach in his work The Plant Life of the Earth ... (1872). The Danish botanist E. Warming linked the distribution of plants with specific living conditions. His book, The Ecological Geography of Plants (1896), was the basis of the new science of plant ecology.

At the same time, throughout the 19th century hundreds of researchers did painstaking work compiling regional floras. Among the most important of these works are E. Boissier’s five-volume Flora of the Orient (1867–88) and J. Hooker’s seven-volume Flora of British India (1875–97). The most fundamental work in this field is the 30-volume Flora of the USSR (1934–64), published by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (AN SSSR) and edited by V. L. Komarov and B. K. Shishkin. The plant kingdom of almost all regions of the earth has been described in corresponding handbooks, primarily in regional floras. N. I. Vavilov’s study on the centers of origin of cultivated plants and geographical laws in the distribution of their hereditary traits (1926–27) has tremendous importance for world science. In his works Vavilov was the first to present a picture of the evolution of forms of cultivated plants in a small number of places of origin. As a result of expeditions organized by him, a valuable stock of world plant resources was collected. It forms an extremely rich collection of plants, which is kept in the AU-Union Institute of Horticulture.

The study of the taxonomy of a great number of plants from all regions of the globe stimulated the development of work in the field of plant morphology. One of the first 19th-century morphologists was the English botanist R. Brown, who showed that gymnosperms are distinguished from angiosperms by their glabrous ovules, explained the nature of the flowers of grasses, and did another series of works on morphology. Brown’s work on embryology was continued by the Italian scientist G. B. Amici, the French botanist A. Brongniart, and especially the German scientist W. Hofmeister, who described the process of fertilization in plants. The classical works of Hofmeister were continued by his countryman E. Stras-burger and the Russian scientists I. N. Gorozhankin, V. I. Beliaev, and S. G. Navashin. Gorozhankin was the first to show that the nuclei of the pollen tube penetrate into the ovule. Beliaev predicted the existence in gymnosperms of motile spermatozoids, which were soon after discovered by the Japanese botanists S. Hirase in the ginkgo and S. Ikeno in the sago palm. After the work of the Russian embryologist S. G. Navashin, who discovered double fertilization, the period of the establishment of plant embryology as an independent discipline was practically complete.

Plant anatomy, which originated in the 17th century, began to develop very rapidly in the mid-19th century. Its successes are associated with the names of the German botanists H. Mohl and C. Sanio, who gave the first data on the microscopic structures of the bodies of higher plants. Toward the middle of the 19th century two trends were noticeable in plant anatomy. One of them was basically interested in problems of the structure of plants, their tax-onomic position, and the evolution of structures, while the other gave more attention to the physiological and ecological significance of various plant tissues. Among the supporters of the first trend were the Frenchmen P. E. van Tieghem and J. Vesque and the German H. Solereder, the author of the compendium The Systematic Anatomy of Dicotyledons (1899). In his book The Anatomy of Woody Plants (1917), the American E. Jeffrey attempted to give a general picture of the evolution of the anatomical structures of all the higher plants. His students E. Sinnott, A. Eames, and especially I. W. Bailey created a concept of the evolution of struc-ures of higher plants that is well coordinated with the views of C. E. Bessey, H. Hallier, and J. Hutchinson. Among the anatomists supporting the second trend in plant anatomy were the German botanists S. Schwendener and G. Haberlandt and the Soviet anatomists V. F. Razdor-skii and V. G. Aleksandrov.

At the end of the 19th century, works in the field of plant ecology and geography, as well as inquiries in forestry and the study of meadows led to the distinguishing of a special area of botany called geobotany or phytocoenology in the USSR. The Russian and Soviet school of geobotany was created by the works of S. I. Korzhinskii, I. K. Pachoski, G.I. Tanfil’ev, G. F. Morozov, V. V. Alekhin, L. G. Ramenskii, A. P. Shennikov, and especially V. N. Sukachev. The acute need for agriculture to take over vast areas of the USSR led to a situation where the problems of geobotany became some of the most vital questions in botany. For this reason, geobotanists are the most numerous division of Soviet botanists.

The North American and European schools of phytocoenology, represented by F. Clements and by J. Braun-Blanquet, E. Rübel, and A. Tansley, respectively, each developed in its own way. Only recently has there been any rapprochement of the viewpoints of Soviet and North American researchers.

The science of plant fossils, or paleobotany, whose origins may be traced to the 18th century and the work of J. Scheuchzer of Switzerland, developed steadily in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 19th century the works of researchers working on all the continents not only described tens of thousands of plant remains from all layers of sedimentary deposits but also created a sufficiently structured system of extinct plants and linked them to their contemporary descendants. Important contributions in the study of plant fossils found on the territory of the USSR were made by M. D. Zalesskii, I. V. Palibin, and A. N. Krishtofovich.

Characteristics of the current stage of the development of botany The current stage in the development of botany is characterized by a blurring of the distinctions between the individual branches of botany and a trend toward their integration. Thus, in plant classification, cytological, anatomical, embryological, and biochemical methods are more and more frequently applied in order to determine the characteristics of the individual taxons. The methods of biochemistry and physiology have been adopted by ecologists and geobotanists. As a result, a complex science of the physiology of plant communities has arisen; its appearance was predicted as early as the 1920’s by the Russian scientist V. V. Alekhin and the Swedish scientist E. Du Rietz; it is usually called coenophysiology. Increasingly, the necessity of considering the role of microorganisms such as algae, fungi, bacteria, and actinomycetes in geobotanical and ecological investigations is being recognized. Specialists in related types of schools work more and more often in contact with geobotanists and ecologists. This leads to the broadening of the field of action of phycologists, bacteriologists, and mycologists, who study the organisms that interest them in their natural surroundings.

Experimentation is much more widely applied in those fields of botany where the method of observation once prevailed. Works in the fields of experimental taxonomy and geobotany are considerably widespread. In addition to the usual experiments, a method of tissue culture in which the tissues are isolated from the effect of the organism as a whole is widely used in plant morphology.

The development of new methods of research based on the achievements of physics and chemistry has permitted the solution of problems that were once too difficult. Thus, as a result of the use of the electron microscope, whose resolving power is a hundred times that of other optical instruments, many new details of the structure of plant cells have been discovered. This information may be used with success not only in anatomy but also in plant taxonomy. The methods of chromatography and cytophotometry, among others, make possible the chemical analysis of microscopic subjects with previously unheard-of speed and accuracy. This is applicable to almost all areas of botany. To some extent, the achievements of molecular biology have facilitated the separation of plant physiology and plant biochemistry from general botany. In addition, these achievements, which will make possible the future discovery of the molecular bases of the ontogenesis and phylogenesis of plants, have opened new horizons in the fields of plant classification and plant morphology. There is still a large gap in our knowledge of the mechanisms that control the unique genetic code for all the cells of a given individual (or even species) and lead to the amazing difference between the cells of different tissues.

At the same time, the attention of botanists has turned increasingly toward the botanical problems of our entire planet. The problems of the productivity of the phy-tocoenoses and their effect on the water and gas conditions of the planet and problems of the recycling of matter and the balance of energy and matter are solved on the basis of observations made with very precise and increasingly perfected instruments with automatic controls. Man’s global influence on nature, which is sometimes exerted without an accurate consideration of possible consequences, makes the work of botanists vitally important to the fate of civilization.

Leading botanical institutions, international organizations, and periodical literature The organization of botanical research in the USSR is determined by the entire system of botanical institutions under the jurisdiction of the AN SSR; academies of science of the union republics; botany sub-departments at universities and pedagogical, pharmaceutical, and agricultural higher educational institutions; botanical gardens under the jurisdiction of various departments; branches of specialized scientific research institutes; and the network of preserves operating all over the USSR. The leading centers of the individual branches of botany are the institutes of the AN SSSR: the V. L. Komarov Botanical Institute (Leningrad), the K. A. Timiriazev Institute of Plant Physiology (Moscow), the A. N. Bakh Institute of Biochemistry (Moscow), the Institute of General Genetics, and the botanical gardens. There are also botanical institutions in the branches of the AN SSR and the republic academies of sciences. Many botanical problems are studied by a number of institutions in the Siberian division of the AN SSSR. Cultivated plants are studied at the N. I. Vavilov AU-Union Institute of Horticulture in Leningrad and at several of its divisions and bases.

In addition, there are specialized institutes for the study of animal feed (Moscow), subtropical crops and green plantings (Azerbaijan), plant protection (Leningrad), as well as the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Medicinal Plants (Moscow). The botanical institutions are equipped with specialized laboratories, research stations, and experimental bases. There are herbaria in some of them.

Soviet botanists are united in the All-Union Botanical Society and its numerous divisions, the Moscow Society of Naturalists, the Geographical Society of the USSR, and other organizations. In the Division of General Biology of the AN SSSR there are scientific problem councils on the study of flora and vegetation, biogeocenology, and the introduction and acclimatization of plants. Among the journals published in the USSR are Botanicheskii zhurnal SSSR (since 1916), Fiziologiia rastenii (Plant Physiology; since 1954), Rastitel’nye resursy (Plant Resources; since 1965), and Mikologiia i fitopatologiia (since 1967). Many monographs, reference books, handbooks, and articles on the various branches of botany are also published. Soviet botanists participate in the work of many foreign societies and journals, as well as conferences, symposia, and congresses.



Ocherki po istorii russkoi botaniki. Moscow, 1947.
Russkie botaniki: Biografo-bibliograficheskii slovar’, vols. 1–4. Compiled by S. Iu. Lipshits. Moscow, 1947–56.
Razvitie biologii v SSSR. Moscow, 1967. Pages 21–158, 695–709.
Bazilevskaia, N. A., I. P. Belokon’, and A. A. Shcherbakova. Kratkaia istoriia botaniki. Moscow, 1968.
Möbius, M. Geschichte der Botanik. Jena, 1937.
Reed, H. S. A Short History of the Plant Sciences. Waltham (Mass.), 1942.
Barnhart, J. H. Biographical Notes Upon Botanists, vols. 1–3. Boston, 1966.
General works
Botanicheskii atlas. Edited by B. K. Shishkin. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963.
Zhukovskii, P. M. Botanika, 4th ed. Moscow, 1964.
Botanika, vol. 1, 7th ed. Edited by L. V. Kudriashov. Moscow, 1966.
McLean, R. C, and W. R. Ivemey-Cook. Textbook of Theoretical Botany, vols. 1–3. London, 1951–67.
Němec, B., and L. Pastẏrik. Všeobecná botanika, 3rd ed. Bratislava, 1963.
Sinnott, E.W., and K. S. Wilson. Botany: Principles and Problems, 6th ed. New York, 1963.
Guttenberg, H. Lehrbuch der allgemeinen Botanik, 6th ed. Berlin, 1963.
Encyclopédie du monde végétal, vols. 1–3. Edited by F. Vallardi. Paris, 1964.
Botanika. Edited by K. Stecki. Warsaw, 1966.
Lehrbuch der Botanik für Hochschulen, 29th ed. Jena, 1967.
Hill, J. B. Botany, 4th ed. New York, 1967.
Dictionaries and reference works
Viktorov, D. P. Kratkii slovar’ botanicheskikh terminov, 2nd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.
Slovnyk-dovidnyk z botaniky. Edited by I. P. Bilokon’ and O. L. Lypa. Kiev, 1965.
Font y Quer, P. Diccionario de botanica. Barcelona, 1953.
Usher, G. A Dictionary of Botany. London, 1966.
Schubert, R., and G. Wagner. Pflanzennamen und botanische Fachwörter, 4th ed. Radebeul, 1967.
Uphof, J. C. The Dictionary of Economic Plants, 2nd ed. Würzburg, 1968.
Lebedev, D. V. Vvedenie ν botanicheskuiu literaturu SSSR. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Levin, V. L. Spravochnoe posobie po bibliografii dlia biologov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1960. Chapter 7.
Fortschritte der Botanik, vol. 1—. Berlin, 1932—. (Annual surveys of world botanical literature.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A branch of the biological sciences which embraces the study of plants and plant life.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. the study of plants, including their classification, structure, physiology, ecology, and economic importance
2. the plant life of a particular region or time
3. the biological characteristics of a particular group of plants
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005