Botany is the study of plants, and we need plants to survive. Plants provide an essential foundation for life on earth, the food we eat and the beauty of the natural environment and as a result botany is considered to be an extremely important science! Botany is no longer confined to the study of how and why plants survive in the way they do. With the advancement of technology the study of botany means the study of how plants are used in biotechnology, the significant part that they play in ecosystems and of course how they can continue to provide food, medicines and even fuel to an ever-expanding global population.
Botany began as a simple interest in plants. One of the earliest records of this interest dates back to about 300BC where Theophrastus wrote 2 volumes, The History of Plants and The Causes of Plants. By the Victorian era it was the plant hunters that were in the limelight. These hunters were essentially plant explorers. They would go all over the world seeking out strange an unusual flora and fauna to bring back to England. The most famous of these is probably Joseph Paxton. He was also responsible for the advent of modern garden design and the design of the doomed Crystal Palace. If it wasn't for these plant explorers, our landscape would look very different to how it does today.
Botany permeates our everyday life. Wood, fabrics, food, medicine, alcohol and rubber are all derived from plants. Botany has allowed this to happen and is continuing to do so in areas such as the development of biofuels as an alternative to fossil fuels which are running out and causing immense damage to the earth. Future developments in crop production in the agricultural industry and pharmaceutical industry will ensure that we will continue to have food and medicine. So from an ancient, interest in plants, botany has become the study of over 550,000 plants and species of living organisms that allow us to survive.
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