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The Gorgeous Anatomy of Plants, by Nehemiah Grew


Why is a clock so similar to a flower? This is the secret life of plants.

English botanist Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712) was one of the first naturalists to use the microscope in the study of plant morphology. His most memorable work is undoubtedly one of his earliest: The Anatomy of Plants (1680), which consists of his observations on the matter, accompanied by delicate illustrations.

Grew is remembered for establishing the basis of botanical studies that would be used for the next one hundred years. Grew’s study of plants was motivated by the idea that there could be similarities between the structures of animals and plants, which led him to search for equivalent organs in each one. Grew, for example, believed that plants could breathe (which was later thoroughly proven). Also, the researcher’s mechanic philosophy allowed him to think like an engineer: he revealed the internal functions of plants through an analogy with the functions of clock-like machines.

It was due to that “mechanical engineering” that Grew’s meticulous work was reflected in one of the most beautiful books ever published. His illustrations acquire the appearance of the finest fans or watery mandala-hives that actually set the foundations for modern botany and carved a new path in the field of plant anatomy.

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