Books  General Natural History  History of Science 

The Aliveness of Plants: The Darwins at the Dawn of Plant Science

By: Peter G Ayres (Author)

227 pages, b/w photos, b/w illustrations, tables

Pickering & Chatto Publishers

Hardback | Apr 2008 | #185811 | ISBN-13: 9781851969708
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £59.99 $73/€67 approx

About this book

The Darwin family was instrumental in the history of botany. For Erasmus (1731-1802), it was a hobby, for Charles (1809-1882) an inspiration, and for Francis (1848-1925), a profession. Their experiences illustrate the growing specialization and professionalization of science throughout the nineteenth century. Ayres shows how botany escaped the burdens of medicine, feminization and the sterility of classification and nomenclature to become a rigorous laboratory science.

"This is the perfect book for every botanist to read and digest [...] in fact it should be required reading for all biologists."
– Marshall D Sundberg, Plant Science Bulletin

"Ayres has a fine understanding of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century plant science, especially in Britain. He gives due attention to the rich interactions and personalities of no less than five generations of Darwins."
– Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis, British Journal for the History of Science

"The Aliveness of Plants offers an engaging discussion of issues in the past and current history of plant physiology. Throughout, Ayres's emphasis on biography makes the history a human story of individuals, jealousies, and misunderstandings, as well as of friendships and the networks through which ideas and projects circulated."
– Ann Shteir ISIS

"Ayres comprehensively sums up the achievements of Darwinian plant science, successfully recreates the atmosphere of the times and assesses the personal strengths and frailties of each of the leading characters. All this is beautifully intertwined and placed in an enveloping framework of social and institutional change [...] The book is highly recommended."
– Mike Jackson, Annals of Botany


Chapter 1: The Misfortunes of Botany
Chapter 2: The Advantages of Wealth
Chapter 3: Erasmus, Phytologia, and Early Studies of Plant Function
Chapter 4: Charles' Evolutionary Period
Chapter 5: Charles' Physiological Period: A Fascination with Movement
Chapter 6: Charles, Francis and Differences with von Sachs
Chapter 7: Francis and Cambridge Plant Physiology
Chapter 8: Women in Life and the Laboratory
Chapter 9: Fortune's Favourites? Their Legacy to Each Other
Chapter 10: Where did their Botany Lead? Their Legacy for all Men

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