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Contributions of Famous Botanists to Plant Systematics

Theophrastus (372287 BC)
Theophrastus, a student of Aristotle, produced Historia Plantarum, the earliest surviving treatise on plants, where he listed the names of over 500 plant species. However he did not articulate a formal classification scheme; instead he relied on the common groupings of folklore combined with growth form: tree shrub; undershrub; or herb. The most important of his books are two large botanical treatises, Enquiry into Plants (Historia Plantarum), and On the Causes of Plants (De Causis Plantarums), which constitute the most important contribution to botanical science during antiquity and the Middle Ages, the first systemization of the botanical world; on the strength of these works some call him the "father of botany."

Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD)

Gaius Plinius Cecilius Secundus, known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman scholar, encyclopedist, and nationalist who was born in Novum Comum in Gallia Cisalpine (today Como, Italy). His most famous work, his one surviving book, Historia Naturalis (Natural History), published in A.D. 77. Natural History consists of thirty-seven books. The books 12-17 are for botany, books 18-19 are for agriculture, books 20-27 are for materia medica from botanical sources. A special interest attaches to his account of the manufacture of papyrus and the various grades of papyrus available to Romans. Different types of trees and the properties of the wood from them receive a vigorous treatment. He describes the olive tree in some detail, praising its virtues as one might expect. Botany is well discussed by Pliny, using Theophrastus as one of his sources.

Pedanius Dioscorides (40-90 AD)

He was a Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist, the author of De Materia Medica, a 5-volume encyclopedia about herbalmedicine and related medicinal substances (a pharmacopeia), that was widely read for more than 1,500 years.


The Materia medica of Dioscorides was an important early compendium of plant descriptions (over five hundred); it was in use from its publication in the 1st century until the 16th century.

Albertus Magnus (~12001280)

Albertus Magnus (Albert, Saint Albert the Great or Albert of Cologne) produced a classification system that recognized monocots and dicots, although he do not use those terms.

Andrea Cesalpino (15191603)

Andrea Cesalpino (Andreas Caesalpinus) based his system on the structure of the organs of fructification, using the Aristotelian technique of logical division, published in De plantis libri XVI, 1583 with 1520 plants. His main groups are herbal and woody, but he uses the flowers and fruits for lower classes. He also made the concept of genera. He was one of the first botanists to make a herbarium. He made one for Bishop Alfonso Tornabono in 1550-60. It contains 768 varieties of plants, and it still exists. The family Caesalpinioideae is named in his honour.

Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1656-1708)

He introduced an even more sophisticated hierarchy of class, section, genus, and species, used an artificial system based on logical division which was widely used until Linnaeus. His first major work was Elments de botanique, ou Mthode pour reconnatre les Plantes from 1694. Here, he describes fungi and puts lichen in a distinguish group, and his flower characters was innovative. Furthermore, he made a clear distinction between genus and species, and give descriptions of the genera. He used this method to classify the 7,000 plant species into 700 genera, a work Linnaeus had great help of.

Pierre Magnol (1638-1715)

He grouped plants into 76 families in his publication Prodromus historiae generalis, in qua familiae pertabulas disponutur from 1689. He is the first to use the concept of Family, and he used a combination of morphological characters. He is honored in the Magnolia genus and Division.

Caspar Bauhin (15601624)


Caspar Bauhin (Gaspard) described over 6000 plants in Pinax theatri botanici, 1623, which were 12 books with 72 sections based on a wide range of common characteristics. The classification system was not particularly innovative, using traditional groups such as "trees", "shrubs", and "herbs", and using other characteristics such utilization, for instance grouping spices into the Aromata. He did correctly group grasses, legumes, and several others. His most important contribution is in the description of genera and species. He introduced many names of genera that were later adopted by Linnaeus, and remain in use. For species, he carefully pruned the descriptions down to as few words as possible; in many cases a single word sufficed as description, thus giving the appearance of a twopart name. However, the single-word description was still a description intended to be diagnostic, not an arbitrarily-chosen name. This might very well have been the inspiration for Linnaeus to event the binomial nomenclature. Later came Theatrum Botanicum in 1658, but only one out of twelve volumes were published. Two more were written, but newer made it to the printer. The Bauhinia is named after him and his brother; Johann Bauhin, another botanist.

Otto Brunfels (1488-1534)

He published his Herbarum vivae icones, 1530 and 1536 and Contrafayt Kruterbuch, 1532-1537. They contain new and good descriptions of the German plants he found during his botanical studies, under their German vernacular names. The special about his publications on botany is; he describes the plants he sees, instead of using previous descriptions.

Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778)

Linnaeus, known as Father of taxonomy, created a sexual system of classification (Marriages of Plants) that divided plants into 24 classes based in large part on the number, union, and length of stamens. Secondary grouping with these classes (Order) was based on the gynoecium mostly the number of styles. While the artificial approach allowed quick sorting and identification, its application produced 'unnatural' groupings. The next step along the path of systematizing flowering plants involved an effort, which progressed through the 1700s and first half of the 19th century, to employ as many characters as needed to insure that natural patterns of variation were reflected by the classification system.

Antoine Laurent de Jussieu (17481836)


Antoine Laurent de Jussieu and his uncle Bernard de Jussieu (1699-1777), also used a classification system that distinguishes relationships between plants by considering a large number of characters, generally invented by Michel Adanson in 1757, and combined it with Linnaeus' binomial nomenclature. In Genera Plantarum secundum ordines naturalis disposita, 1789, they distinguished 15 classes and 100 families (called Orders). Seventy six of his 100 families remain in botanical nomenclature today.

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829)

In 1778, Lamarck published Flore franaise, a meticulously compiled catalog of French flora. To identify each plant, Lamarck used a dichotomous key; that is, a systematic list of key characteristics. By comparing the plant's characteristics to the listed traits at each stage of identification, large groups of dissimilar plants could be quickly eliminated and the plant's identity easily determined. The book and Lamarck's method soon attracted the attention of noted biologist Georges Buffon, who nurtured Lamarck's interest in botany and in 1781 secured him the position of botanist to King Louis XVI. Lamarck continued to work at the Jardin du Roi until the French Revolution resulted in its dissolution.

Augustin Pyramus de Candolle (17781841)

He published his Principes lmentaires de botanique as an introduction to the third edition of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck's Flore franaise 1803-1815. In 1813, he published his own Thorie lmentaire de la botanique with 135 families (still called Order). He wanted the system to be natural, like Adanson's, in opposed to the artificial, Linnaean System. He classified plants into cellulares or non-vascular plants and vasculares or vascular plants. In 1821 came the first two (and only) volumes of Regni vegetabilis systema naturale . He tried to make it less extensive, but only managed to make seven out of ten volumes of Prodromus systemati naturalis regni vegetabilis sive enumeratio contracta ordinum, generum specierumque plantarum huc usque cognitarum, juxta methodi naturalis normas digesta, which were finished by his son: Alphonse Louis Pierre Pyrame de Candolle (1806-1893) , and his grandson: Anne Casimir Pyrame de Candolle (1836-1918). It counts 161 families and 58000 species is treated. The Prodromus systematis naturalis regni vegetabilis was intended to be a descriptive classification of all known seed plants. Candolle's goal was not only to classify every known species, but also to include ecology, evolution, and the biogeography of each. Candolle was a pioneer in the field of biogeography, an idea Armen Takhtajan used in 1966. His work counts the less familiar groups, and remained the only systematic treatment available for some plant groups for many years. 4


Alphonse Louis Pierre Pyrame de Candolle (1806-1893)

Alphonse Louis Pierre Pyrame de Candolle is most famous for his Lois de la nomenclature botanique adoptes par le Congrs international de botanique tenu Paris en aot, 1867; the first Code of Botanical Nomenclature. The ICBN sets the formal starting date of plant nomenclature at 1 May 1753, the publication of Species Plantarum by Linnaeus.

Michel Adanson (1727-1806)

He founded his classification of all organized beings on the consideration of each individual organ, and not only the flowers, like Linnaeus. As each organ gave birth to new relations, so he established a corresponding number of arbitrary arrangements. Those beings possessing the greatest number of similar organs were referred to one great division, and the relationship was considered more remote in proportion to the dissimilarity of organs. This made a much more natural system, than Linnaeus. In 1763, he published his Familles naturelles des plantes , where he uses the multicharacteristic system. The success of this work was hindered by its innovations in the use of terms, which were ridiculed by the defenders of the popular sexual system of Linnaeus. Never the less, his way of classification opened up for more precise groupings, made by coming taxonomists. His systematic were inspired by Joseph Pitton de Tournefort's system from 1694. As a system, his work is brilliant, but his big mistake was to refuse to use the new binomial nomenclature. Never the less; it open the way for the establishment, by means principally of Antoine Laurent de Jussieu's Genera Plantarum (1789), of the natural method of the classification of plants. His work on the baobabs results in the Adansonia commemorating Adanson.

George Bentham (1800-1884) and Joseph Hooker (1817-1911)

The most important natural system of classification of seed plants was proposed by two British botanists, George Bentham and Sir Joseph D. Hooker, in Genera Plantarum, recognized 97,205 species belonging to 7,569 genera of families of flowering plants. They gave an outstanding system of classification of phanerogams in their Genera Plantarum which was published in three volumes between the years 1862 to 1883. It is a natural system of classification. However, it does not show the evolutionary relationship between different groups of plants, in the strict sense. Nevertheless, it is the most popular system of classification particularly for angiosperms. The popularity comes from the face that very clear key characters have been listed for each of the families. These key characters enable the students of taxonomy to easily identify and assign any angiosperm plant to its family.


Bentham and Hooker have grouped advanced, seed bearing plants into a major division called Phanerogamia. This division has been divided into three classes namely: Dicotyledonae, Gymnospermae and Monocotyledoneae .

Wilhelm Hofmeister (1824-1877)

Hofmeister is widely credited with discovery of alternation of generations as a general principle in plant life. His proposal that alternation between haploid and diploid phases constituted a unifying theory of plant evolution that was published in 1851 as Vergleichende Untersuchungen (Comparative Investigations), showed the homologies between the higher seed-bearing plants (phanerogams) and the mosses and ferns (cryptogams) and demonstrated the true position of the gymnosperms between the angiosperms and the cryptogams.

August Wilhelm Eichler (1839-1887)

August Wilhelm Eichler (Augustus Guilielmus) separated Phanerogamae in Angiosperms and Gymnosperms, and Angiosperms again in Monocotyledonae and Dicotyledonae. It was published in Bltendiagramme, I-II: 1875-1878. In 1883, he divided the plant kingdom into non-floral plants (Cryptogamae) and floral plants (Phanerogamae). His system is significant in the perspective it is the first one in which the concept of Evolution. It is in line with Adolphe-Thodore Brongniart's 1843 work.

Stephan Ladislaus Endlicher

The majority and the most valuable of his works are on botany. Foremost among them are his Genera Plantarum (1831-41), in which he lays down a new system of classification, Grundzge einer neuen Theorie der Pflanzenerzeugung (Foundations of a new theory of plant breeding ; 1838), and Die Medicinalpflanzen der sterreichischen Pharmakope (Medicinal plants in the Austrian pharmacopoeia ; 1842). The principal of his other botanical works are: Ceratotheca (1822), Flora Posoniensis (1830), Diesingia (1832), Atacta Botanica (1833), Iconographia Generum Plantarum (1838), Enchiridium Botanicum (1841) and Synopsis Coniferarum Sancti Galli (1847). Endlicher established the botanical journal Annalen des Wiener Museums der Naturgeschichte (1835). He began the work Flora Brasiliensis with Martius. He also published early works on the flora of Australia, including the plants collected by Carl von Hugel and Ferdinand Bauer. He wrote several works in conjunction with other scholars, and many of his minor writings are scattered among the periodicals of his time, especially in the Annalen des


Wiener Museums. Endlicher described many new plant genera, perhaps most notably the genus Sequoia. The genus Endlicheria of the family Lauraceae was named in his honor.

Richard Wettstein (1863-1931)

Richard Wettstein (Ritter von Westersheim) published his system in Handbuch der systematischen Botanik from 1901-1935. It counts 48 ordos (orders) with 315 families, including Gymnospermae. His new idea is: Monocots evolved from Ranales. He also used the phylogenetic system.

Charles Edwin Bessey (1845-1915)

The first American taxonomist made his Bessey system, with focus on the evolutionary divergence of primitive forms. The systems based on various 28 guiding rules, or dicta (dicots are primitive; monocots arose from them) , to determine level of being, simple or advanced, of a group of plants. It is considered by many as the system most likely to form the basis of a modern, comprehensive taxonomy of the plant kingdom. It was published in The phylogenetic taxonomy of flowering plants , 1915. Here, he considered Spermatophyta as having had polyphyletic origin, being composed by three different phyla, of which he treated only Anthophyta. He was full in line with Richard Wettstein ideas.

Heinrich Gustav Adolf Engler (18441930) and Karl Anton Eugen Prantl (1849-1893)
Adolf Engler and Karl Prantl of Germany published a phylogenetic system in their monograph on Die Naturlichen Pflanzen Familien (The Natural Families of France) . They believed that classification systems should reflect evolutionary history. They developed first phylogenetic system of plant classification (at Botanical Garden in Berlin) and that gave a slightly changed August Wilhelm Eichler system. Families and orders arranged based on the complexity of floral morphology. Characters like a perianth with one whorl, unisexual flowers and pollination by wind were considered primitive as compared to perianth with two whorls, bisexual flowers and pollination by insects. They dealt with the primitive groups as well. It is in line with Adolphe-Thodore Brongniart's 1843 work. The Plant Kingdom is divided into 14 major divisions. The first 13 divisions cover algae, fungi, bryophytes and pteridophytes. The 14th division is named Embryophyta Siphonogama. It is divided into two subdivisions: Gymnospermae (Cycads and Conifers) and Angiospermae (flowering plants).

Arthur John Cronquist (1919-1991)



He was a North American botanist and a specialist on Compositae. He is considered one of the most influential botanists of the 20th century, largely due to his formulation of the Cronquist system, which was an expansion and modification of Besseys work. The Cronquist system is a taxonomic classification system of flowering plants . It was developed by Arthur Cronquist in his texts An Integrated System of Classification of Flowering Plants (1981) and The Evolution and Classification of Flowering Plants (1968; 2nd edition, 1988). The 'Cronquist System' of Flowering Plant (Magnoliophyta) classification groups flowering plants into two classes: Magnoliopsida (dicotyledons) and Liliopsida (monocotyledons) with related Orders (groups of families) placed in Subclasses.

John Hutchinson (1884-1972)

John Hutchinson's System was published in his two volumes: Monocotyledonae in 1926, and Dicotyledonae in 1934 (2nd edition 1959; 3rd edition, 1973). The families of flowering plants, arranged according to a new system based on their probable phylogeny. It counts 328 families. It was a radical revision of the angiosperm classification system devised by Bentham & Hooker and by Engler & Prantl. He was commemorated in the genus Hutchinsonia by Robyns.

Rolf Martin Theodor Dahlgren (1932-1987)

He made his Angiosperm Classification in 1975, with 112 orders and 477 families. Professor Rolf Dahlgren was during the 70s and until the mid-80s a leading figure in extensive studies of the diversity and evolution of the monocots. His monumental work (with T. Clifford and P. Yeo) The families of the Monocotyledones is the starting point of virtually all modern monocot research and has been the impetus to extensive collection of sequence data within the last decade. Bubble diagrams were developed by Professor Rolf Dahlgren in an effort to establish a new way to look at plant classification rather than the system developed by Linnaeus which is so cumbersome but is still the system used around the world. He worked close together with Robert F. Thorne.

Armen Leonovich Takhtajan (1910-2009)

Takhtajan worked at the Komarov Botanical Institute in Leningrad, where he developed his 1940 classification scheme for flowering plants, which emphasized phylogenetic relationships between plants. His system did not become known to botanists in the West until after 1950, and in the late 1950s he began a correspondence and collaboration with the prominent American botanist Arthur Cronquist, whose plant


classification scheme was heavily influenced by his collaboration with Takhtajan and other botanists at Komarov. The "Takhtajan system" of flowering plant classification treats flowering plants as a division (phylum), Magnoliophyta, with two classes, Magnoliopsida (dicots) and Liliopsida (monocots). These two classes are subdivided into subclasses, and then superorders, orders, and families. The Takhtajan system is similar to the Cronquist system, but with somewhat greater complexity at the higher levels. He favors smaller orders and families, to allow character and evolutionary relationships to be more easily grasped. The Takhtajan classification system remains influential; it is used, for example, by the Montral Botanical Garden. Takhtajan also developed a system of floristic regions.


References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armen_Takhtajan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephan_Endlicher en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Hofmeister www.peoi.org/Courses/Coursesen/bot/temp/bot19t26.html http://www.bihrmann.com/caudiciforms/div/hist2.asp http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_plant_systematics