THIS is in no sense a cram-book. To take the trouble of learning it by heart, page for page, would not suffice for any botanical examination with which we are acquainted. This is a great advantage in an elementary scientific work. Not only does it enable the author to be entirely independent of the favourite points of particular examiners; but it permits him to pursue his own method of developing the subject in the learner's mind. In no science is this freedom of greater value than in botany. The text-books used and recommended by many teachers of botany would appear to have been especially designed to deter the intending student from the study of the science. Bristling at the outset with a formidable array of technical terms, which should never be introduced till a later stage of the instruction, they give a superficial countenance to the idea which is prevalent even with many who ought to know better, that Botany is a mere science of terms, unworthy to be placed by the side of Comparative Anatomy or Animal Physiology. Each teacher will no doubt have his own idea of the arrangement of his subject best calculated to interest the beginner, and to lead him on step by step to see the true dignity of the science. Dr. Masters's is recommended by his own experience as a lecturer for many years to one of our Metropolitan hospitals. He commences by taking in succession a series of flowers in the order in which they are tobe met with as the spring unfolds—willow, poplar, ash, elm, tulip, hyacinth, apple, lilac, and so forth; and in plain and attractive language, bringing in technical terms at the outset only when necessary for the sake of accuracy, he explains the structure of their different parts, and the points in which they resemble or differ from one another. The more important phenomena of the physiology of plants are also brought under review as the descriptions of structure naturally lead up to them, though we think that more space might with advantage have been bestowed on this portion of the subject. A single page devoted to the decomposition of carbonic acid by the leaves, and twelve lines to the process of fertilisation of the ovule, are hardly sufficient to introduce the reader to these branches of physiology, which are not only of the highest importance themselves, but also of far greater interest to the student, if simply and intelligently brought before him, than the details of morphology or of classification. The substance of this little book has already appeared in the columns of the Gardener's Chronicle, and it is well illustrated with capital wood-cuts. We heartily recommend “Botany for Beginners” to teachers or parents who are desirous of interesting young persons in this science, and who can appreciate the value of a clearly-written, simple, and yet accurate elementary treatise.
Botany for Beginners: an Introduction to the Study of Plants.
By Maxwell T. Masters (London: Bradbury, Evans, & Co., 1872.)
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B., A. Botany for Beginners: an Introduction to the Study of Plants . Nature 6, 59 (1872). https://doi.org/10.1038/006059a0