GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON VEGETABLESCHAPTER XXIX
Remarks on the Science of Botany and the Properties of Vegetables.
The knowledge of plants in the earlier history of mankind was restricted to those from which food was obtained, or were remarkable for their curative or poisonous nature, their relative value being determined by practical experience. As civilization advanced, the priests, who made a study of the medicinal properties of the plants then known to them, were the doctors of the period, and thus the connexion between religion and medicine which so long prevailed became established.
Hippocrates (fifth century b.c.), the "Father of Medicine," enumerated 234 species of plants known in his time and used for medicinal purposes. The first book, having a basis of science, was that of Aristotle (384–322 b.c.), the celebrated philosopher and naturalist of ancient Greece. His pupil, Theophrastus, describes some 500 plants known in agriculture, domestic use, and medicine. No further progress seems to have been made in the study of botany until the first century a. d., when Dioscorides, a Greek physician, the author of a celebrated work on medicine, long a standard work, describes some 600 plants used in the healing art. Pliny the Elder (23–79 a.d.), who perished in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which overwhelmed Pompeii and Herculaneum, utilized the labours of his predecessors, and collected the most interesting facts from their writings, which he embodied in his Natural History, the only work of the Roman naturalist now extant. The above-mentioned works on botany were the best until the sixteenth century, and were held in high reputation. At this period the Germans began those investigations in this branch of science in which they have long and honourably held a distinguished place. The first to classify plants systematically was Caesalpinius (died 1603), dividing the vegetable kingdom into woody and herbaceous plants. The growth of