The author, Duane Isely, is distinguished professor emeritus at Iowa State University in Ames. What makes the botanical field so interesting to this reader? It is the people. More than any other reason, I choose to work in this field because of the people I met early in my career. Dr. Isely, in many years of teaching, sought to bring the historical personalities, often eccentric pioneers in science and humanities, to life. This book is a compilation of essays arranged chronologically (beginning with Aristotle), ending with the late Winona Hazel Welsh. It is a survey of the careers and achievements of the people who made great contributions to the botanical field over the past two millennia. This rich, fascinating parade of personalities provides a short biography, usually 2,000 words or less, on the important individuals who shaped the field of botany, their achievements as well as blemishes.
Those of us who delve into botanical pursuits on a daily basis know the names Torrey, de Candolle, Engelmann, Gray, Hooker, Engler, Bessey, Bailey, Gleason, and Arber. Then there are the more eccentric names like Luther Burbank and George Washington Carver. Their names and the titles of the many books they created roll off our tongues.
But what do we know about the people behind the title page? This book is the place to find out who these people were. As Dr. Isley writes in the preface, "These botanists, indeed not disembodied spirits, were individuals who lived busy and usually impassioned lives. Their existence included suffering as well as the joys of living and accomplishment."
Any good teacher can bring a subject to life, providing excitement and enthusiasm to the most bored of students. Isely brings the personalities of botany to life in this highly readable, entertaining text, written to inform the botanically minded, as well as enlighten those of a non-botanical bent, interested in what makes people tick.
This is an excellent book for the student, professional, or non-botanist. Highly recommended for bringing a human twist to understanding the plant world.
Article copyright American Botanical Council.
By Steven Foster