Biology vs Botany

Curtis Clark jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU
Mon Jun 5 08:59:48 CDT 1995

Date sent:
Margaret Bolick wrote:
 >     From the 13th to the 17th centuries, at least in Europe,
 >women and lower class men who studied herbs and healing ran a real risk
 >of being burned at the stake as a witch.  This and the increasing
 >organization of the medical practitioners into a profession that
 >required university training effectively eliminated most women as
 >serious students of either botany or zoology.  As long as these

It is my understanding that at one point the practice of medicine
without university training was deemed heresy.  This of course
included all women who practiced medicine, since university training
at that time was not an option.  I teach me classes that the
Burning Times account for the de-emphasis in European culture on
herbal medicine (many of my students come from Asian cultures where
herbal medicine is still important, and provides a good way to
interest them in botany).

 >I suspect that when women did begin to get education that botany with
 >its emphasis on "alternation of generations," "gametophytes," and
 >"sporophytes"  seemed a lot safer as an area of study than dealing with
 >the more obviously sexed animal kingdom.

When I teach plant sex by analogy to animal sex ("the archegonium is
now pregnant with a baby sporophyte", e.g.), students understand it
much better.  On the other hand, details of the syngamy part of
sexual reproduction are often "forgotten" even with animals; a colleague
who teaches a vertebrate zoology course was unfamiliar with whether
or not male crocodilians had penises.

Curtis Clark                                       Voice: (909) 869-4062
Biological Sciences Department                     FAX:   (909) 869-4396
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Pomona CA 91768-4032                               jcclark at

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