status of systematics

p stevens p_stevens at NOCMSMGW.HARVARD.EDU
Wed Apr 5 10:40:22 CDT 1995

I am trying to understand how systematic botany has developed the reputation
it has.  One of the lines on enquiry that I am pursuing is the use by
non-systematists of the term "botany", and the possible consequences for the
discipline of this "popular" understanding.  Although I have been focussing
on the 19thC, I am also looking at the period since then.

Can anyone help with 20thC references by non-botanists to botany (in the
sense of systematic botany)?  Wodehouse may be one place to look, although I
haven't read him recently.  Two examples (of several) I have come across
recently - I didn't invent them - are:

"The spectral classification of supernovae carries a distasteful aura of
botany for many astrophysicists." - Nature 371: 199. 1994.

Said of botany by the President of a university in the 1980s "Isn't that just
flower picking?"

If anybody does have references, please reply to me direct.  If interesting
trends become evident, I will summarise the replies for Taxacom as a whole.
On the whole, such comments seem overwhelmingly to be negative, and this is
true right through the nineteenth century and in to the eighteenth (there is
a nifty full-text poetry data base one can search...)

Peter Stevens (pstevens at

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