Jain Biology ► [00] ► Introduction

Posted: 28.08.2009

Biology (bios = life and logos = knowledge) is the science of the psychical order of existence, i.e., the living world. Living organisms are of many kinds and for proper study they have to be classified. All living organisms are broadly classified under three forms, viz. microbes, plants and animals. Thus the principal fields of study under Biology are Botany, Zoology, and Microbiology. And hence Biology itself is divided into two branches, viz. Botany—study of plants and Zoology—study of animals. Microbiology includes study of micro-organisms, both plants and animals. Viruses, bacteria, algae, fungi, and amoeba like protozoan are some of the pies of microbes. Viruses are so small that they cannot be seen with the light microscope. Electron-microscope is used fortheir study. Bacteria are simple unicellular microscopic organisms. Algae are aquatic plants. Fungi are cellular or filamentous plants. Protozoa are small microscopic unicellular organisms.

ANCIENT BOTANICAL STUDY

The word 'botany' comes from the Greek word 'botane', which means plant. This word in turn can be traced back to the Greek 'boskein', to graze, which was derived from 'bous', the Greek word for cattle. Thus etymologically, botany is the science of what cattle eat.

Botany, the study of plants, arose from the attempts of primitive men to control their environments and to adapt themselves more advantageously to their sorroundings. Thus the first study of plants must have undoubtedly been centered upon the importance of plants in human life as sources of food for nourishment, of fibres for clothing, of drugs for the treatment of diseases, and of fuel. In due course, certain men. to satisfy a growing human curiosity about the world in which they lived, must have begun to seek answers to questions of intellectual interest and in man' s first attempts to obtain answers to such questions, the science of botany must have had its origin.

From the records in ancient manuscripts and in the form of hieroglyphics etc. it is known that peoples of various civilizations possessed considerable information about the lives and uses of plants, particularly plants of agricultural and medicinal value. Their knowledge was for the most part, of a practical nature, although it did include some fundamental scientific discoveries, such as the discovery of sexuality in the date palm and of the importance of pollination in the development of fruits.

In the orient, the Indians and the Chinese had acquired considerable knowledge of plant cultivation and plant uses for food and medicine, at least 5000 years ago. The ancient races of America, who are regarded by anthropologists as being of Asiatic origin, possessed considerable knowledge concerning utilitarian aspects of plant life. The pre-Incas of Peru were apparently the first American race to plant corn or maize. From Peru, the culture of corn spread both northward and southward until by the early sixteenth century, corn was grown as the major crop plant from Argentina to the St. Lawrence River valley. The study of plants by all these ancient peoples was centered upon one major objective—the practical exploitation of plants as sources of food, beverages, fibres, wood, drugs, and other products which benefit the human life and civilization. Since their interests were so limited, and since they achieved little progress in the discovery and interpretation of fundamental natural laws, they could not be regarded as biologists or botanists.

Botanists usually recognize the beginnings of plant science in the Golden Age of Greece. Most of the early Greek botanists were physicians or drug sellers. About 340 B.C., Theophrastus—a pupil of Plato and Aristotle—wrote a History of Plants, in which he deals with the general morphology of roots, stems, leaves, flowers and fruits. Uses of ornamental plants and importance of vegetables and cereals are also given emphasis in this book.

Aristotle, himself, believed that plants had no sensory faculties, and no differences of sex. He reached the unique conclusion that animals have souls and plants do not.

The middle Ages constituted a period of relative inactivity in European science as the period was one of great political changes, of superstition and often of insufficient food, poor sanitation, disease, unceasing warfares—conditions which were inimical to the progress of science.

During the medieval period—between 800 and 300 A.D. Botanical Hardens were established in various parts of the Arabian Empire. Baghadad became a centre for the translation and editing of ancient manuscripts Into Arabic. However, not until much after, did the study of plants resume 'I., i nurse. During the sixteenth century, botanical gardens became popular and by the middle of the seventeenth century, there was hardly a university or a medical school in Europe without a garden of medicinal herbs and shrubs. Again, however, the study continued to centre around their food and medicinal values.

Modern Botanical Study

Thus the development of Biology, being a science of the living, came much later than the development of physics and chemistry, which dealt with inanimate matter. Many of the foundation stones of modern Botany, divorced from superstition and fantasy, were laid during the closing decades of eighteenth century. TAXONOMY, the study of plant classification and relationships and MORPHOLOGY, the study of plant structure, were the first to develop because they required little technical apparatus. Details of tissue and cell structure had to await the discovery and perfection of magnifying lenses, as a result of which plant ANATOMY began its career.

One of the greatest figures in the entire history of botany was Carolus Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, whose investigations upon the naming and classification of plants were the most extensive and exceedingly effective in stimulating succeeding generations of botanists to taxonomic research After the basic principles of chemistry and physics were established, PLANT PHYSIOLOSY, the study of functions aroused interest and grew rapidly. Along with these, there arose PLANT PATHOLOGY, the science of disease and control and more recently GENETICS, the study of inheritance, ECOLOGY, the study of the relations of plants to their environmental conditions and CYTOLOGY, one of the most recent fields, the microscopic study of cell structure and cell behaviour. Great advances were made during the latter years of the eighteenth century and during the nineteenth century in all phases of plant science.

Research is steadily adding to the knowledge of the lives of plants. Besides Botany, other plant sciences include BACTERIOLOGY, the study of bacteria, which are microscopic plants of great importance in agriculture, industry and medicine.

The study of Biology is valuable in understanding ourselves and our living surroundings. It has greatly helped us in controlling various diseases, in producing better and more foods, and in conserving natural resources. The development of medical, agriculture and various industries is a result of the knowledge acquired through study of biology.

Biology and the allied fields of study have also helped us in wiping out some superstitious beliefs. Smallpox, for example, was for a long time thought to be a curse of an angry goddess. However, it is definitely known now that smallpox is a viral disease and it can be checked and cured. Study of Biology has thus made our life happy and comfortable. Study of Botany is valuable for :

  1. It enables man to appreciate his dependence upon plants and his place in nature.
  2. It enriches the cultural life of man and enhances the aesthetic appreciation of plants.
  3. It forms a necessary informational background for students preparing for careers in horticulture, agronomy, bacteriology pharmacology, etc..

Authors

Source/Info

Edited by:
Prof. Muni Mahendra Kumar

© JAIN VISHVA BHARATI UNIVERSITY
Ladnun-341 306 (Rajasthan, India)

First Edition: 2008

Printed at: Shree Vardhman Press, Naveen Shahdara, Delhi- 110032

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