Popular Science Monthly/Volume 61/June 1902/Scientific Literature

Scientific Literature.


A notable book on modern botany has been prepared by Professor Campbell under the title of 'A University Text-book of Botany' (Macmillan) which fairly outlines the essentials of the science as understood to-day. Unlike many text-books it is a well-balanced presentation of the whole subject, and not a setting forth of some transient fad which the author may have taken up recently. Professor Campbell has succeeded in giving in the compass of a book of moderate size a good view of modern botany. His is not a radical view, but rather a conservative one, and his book indicates a distinct tendency away from the extreme position assumed by some American botanists in recent years. Instead of page after page of fine 'half tone' pictures of landscapes showing plants under all kinds of conditions, we have here a solid treatise in which the various parts of the subject are taken up in the order which has commended itself to the author as a teacher of many years' experience. After an introductory chapter, the author follows the usual sequence, viz., general morphology, cytology and histology, and then the special morphology, cytology and histology of the principal groups of plants, beginning with the lowest and passing from these by successive steps to the highest. This is the principal part of the book, occupying as it does fully four fifths of the pages. After this come several chapters on physiology, relation to environment, and geological and geographical distribution. Modern botany, as interpreted by Professor Campbell, is largely and quite emphatically structural. Physiology and ecology are distinctly subordinated to structure, as indeed they must be in any scheme of scientific instruction. Here as in mechanics, it is essential that the mechanism be clearly understood before the working of the machine can be critically studied. It will not do to study mechanism alone; there must be a study of the activities as well. We must see the machine in operation, but merely to 'see the wheels go round' gives little accurate knowledge, however diverting it may be to the participants in the entertainment. Modern botany is not a diversion; it is a science, and must be seriously studied. It requires hard work, and it is not wise to attempt to eliminate the serious parts, leaving only the easy and entertaining portions. The training in botany is and always should be as severe as that required of students doing work in other sciences.