PLANT SCIENCE BULLETIN
A Publication of the Botanical Society of America, Inc.
5 APRIL, 1959 NUMBER 2
Secondary School Biological Sciences Film Series of
the American Institute of Biological Sciences
History and Background
first standing committee authorized by the American Institute of Biological
Sciences in 1955, when the Institute incorporated as a separate entity, was
a Committee on Education and Professional Recruitment. This reflected the
concern of Member Societies and the Board of Governors of the AIBS for the
improvement of education in the biological sciences. The charge to the Committee
was to develop a vigorous program of education at all levels which could become
the basic policy of the Institute.
Committee is made up of ten biologists representing private universities,
state universities, land grant colleges, small liberal arts colleges, private
preparatory schools and secondary schools. From the start it was intended
that this Committee should bring together people from as wide a range of biological
fields as possible.
present, this Committee is composed of:
Oswald Tippo, Chairman
Ronald Bamford, Graduate School, University of Maryland
John Bodel, The Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, Connecticut
Harriet B. Creighton, Wellesley College
Harvey Fisher, Southern Illinois University
Phillip Fordyce, Oak Park-River Forest High School, Oak Park, Illinois
Paul Klinge, Indiana University
Leland S. McClung, Indiana University Dr. Gairdner Moment, Goucher College
C. Ladd Prosser, University of Illinois
its first meeting, in 1955, members of the Committee agreed fully on the desirability
of a reorganization and redesign of the curriculum content of biology courses
at both the college and high school levels. Since this first meeting, there
has gradually been developed by the Committee a series of proposals for strengthening
the course content of high school and college biology curricula and developing
means by which these courses can be taught more effectively. The approaches
are varied and some of the proposals already have been put into effect. An
example is the highly successful Visiting
Program, in operation since early 1956. Two other projects are also now underway.
first of these is the preparation of a complete course in biology, making
an extensive and integrated use of film directed at the high school level.
This has been designated The Secondary School Biological Sciences Film Series
which may be used for classroom or television instruction. The second project
involves a thorough reappraisal of the course content of biology taught at
all levels, and evaluations which would lead to recommendations for the development
of textbooks, lab manuals, monographs, review journals, supplementary films,
film strips, magnetic tapes, as well as recommendations for the improvement
of pre-service and in-service training of teachers. This comparatively long-range
project is known as the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, located in Boulder,
Secondary School Film Series was originally recommended unanimously by the
Education Committee at its December, 1957, meeting. It was presented to the
Executive Committee of the AIBS at its Spring meeting in March, 1958. The
Executive Committee recommended to the Governing Board that the AIBS embark
upon such a project. The Governing Board unanimously accepted the recommendation
of the Executive Committee in May, 1958, and directed the Executive Director
of the AIBS to proceed with the project and to seek funds in support of it.
RIBS, through the Executive Director, Dr. Hiden T. Cox, contacted the Fund
for the Advancement of Education and the National Science Foundation concerning
available funds for the project. Since then the Institute has had frequent
contact with not only these agencies, but with the National Academy of Sciences,
the National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement
of Science and other organizations interested in the development of such projects.
for the Secondary School project have been made available by a grant from
the Fund for the Advancement of Education of the Ford Foundation for staff
and the preparation and organization of the project. The capital for production
and distribution of the course materials is being provided by the chosen producer-distributor.
B. CREIGHTON, Editor
of Botany and Bacteriology
College, Wellesley 81, Massachusetts
S. Avery, Jr Brooklyn Botanic Garden
P. Banks Cornell University
B. Creighton Wellesley College
S. Greenfield Rutgers University
B. Sears Yale University
1959 • VOLUME 5, NO. 2
Why is the AIBS Supervising the Project and Serving as Contracting Agent?
AIBS is organized biology at the national level. It exists solely to do those
things for biology which cut across narrow disciplinary lines or which are
for the common good of all biologists. Presently composed of forty-five professional
societies with a representation of approximately 80,000 biologists, the AIBS
is the one organization that unifies all fields of the life sciences. Professional
biologists in the fundamental disciplines, in the agricultural sciences, and
in the medical and clinical fields are all represented in the AIRS. A high
school course developed and produced by the AIBS will have the immediate and
practical advantage of carrying the prestige of full endorsement by the Institute.
demonstrated interest of the AIBS in educational matters is another important
factor. It is significant that, as previously stated, the first authorized
standing committee of the AIBS was its Committee on Education and Professional
Recruitment. Since the establishment of the AIRS as an independent organization
in 1955, this Committee has been the Institute's most active permanent policy-forming
group. About 75% of the members of the AIBS are teachers of biology. Every
officer except one is a teacher. Only four out of twenty-two members of the
Governing Board are not teachers. One of the strong Member Societies of the
AIBS is the National Association of Biology Teachers, a group of over 3400
school teachers and university instructors concerned with the training of
high school teachers. It is difficult to imagine that the AIRS would default
in its responsibilities to education at all levels.
is great advantage in having the same organization supervise all major programs
of curriculum improvement in biology. This high school course should be and
is the first stage in the AIBS' long-term course content study. Some of the
same people are involved in both phases of the program. Both projects are
under the policy direction of the Education Committee.
an established and sound national organization, the AIBS possesses many resources
which can be used effectively in supervising this large and important pro
ject. The Institute's annual gross business is presently of the order of a
million dollars. The Headquarters now has a permanent, paid staff of 30 people,
and has necessary auditing and legal personnel on permanent annual retainer.
The AIBS routinely administers contracts and grants—currently numbering
over thirty—ranging from $900 to $155,000 per year. Through its fourteen
periodicals, the Institute reaches the biological community and most of these
can be used to inform biologists as to aims and purposes of projects it sponsors.
AIBS maintains close and effective liaison with major all-science organizations
such as the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for
the Advancement of Science. The record of cooperation with sister scientific
organizations is excellent and the AIRS was a moving force behind the recent
forming of an informal organization of principal executive officers of the
American Institute of Physics, the American Chemical Society, the American
Geological Institute, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental
Biology, the American Psychological Association, the American Meteorological
Society, the American Mathematical Society, and the AIBS. The executive officers
are in almost daily contact with the federal science agencies and the effectiveness
of this cooperation is attested by the many contracts granted the AIBS by
these agencies. The AIBS is called upon for advice by congressional committees
with gratifying frequency.
the final analysis, however, the greatest asset of the AIBS is the 80,000
scientists who belong to it through its Member affiliate Societies. There
is no shortage of talent which can be used in this project. Thoughtful, able
and dedicated teachers at all levels and in all fields of biology are available
through the AIBS. A biology course produced by the AIBS will reflect the ideas,
the philosophy, and the experience of the great majority of practicing biology
The Need for This Course
premise that a knowledge of science and mathematics is indispensable in general
education is accepted by all thoughtful persons. Science is as necessary now
to the educated man as are the humanities. A basic grounding in understanding
of the sciences must be imparted to every student at every level of schooling.
very considerable part of this basic science is the understanding and appreciation
of biology. Biology is important in the development of intellectual insight.
It is important because of its vast practical applications in agriculture,
medicine, anthropology and psychology. In many less readily recognizable ways,
biology has a profound impact upon human culture and civilization. Terrible
wars have been fought because agricultural productivity could not keep pace
with exploding populations. Lack of understanding of biology has produced
race conflicts and tensions. Ignorance of the simplest elements of medical
science results in literally billions of dollars being wasted on quack cancer
"cures," youth revitalizers and the like.
remedy this situation will require a variety of measures which must be taken
now. Better schools, better teachers, and better courses are all needed. The
building of better schools is, too, an indirect responsibility. The Institute
can now contribute in large measure to the training of better teachers and
to the design of better courses of instruction. The Education Committee is
concerning itself with standards that should be met by all persons who plan
to teach in the secondary schools and in colleges. It is concerned with the
raising of the prestige of the teaching profession which is so vital in attracting
students into teaching as a career. The Biological Sciences Curriculum Study
is aimed directly at improving the course content of biology offerings at
all levels of instruction.
the supply of good teachers is adequate, other measures must be taken. One
of these is to make avail-able more widely the talents of the good teachers
we have now. The Visiting Biologists Program accomplishes this to a limited
extent. The present project to produce a new high school course is another
major effort. Such a course will extend to all high schools the opportunity
of offering a superior course in biology. The integrated use of film classroom
teaching and printed materials represents a most effective way of bringing
to students everywhere teaching of the very highest order of excellence.
need for such a course is widely felt. A recent staff paper of the National
Research Council Committee of Educational Policies states that 90% of
the high schools of the United States offer tenth grade biology. These high
schools enroll 97% of all high school students. Of this number, 75%
take the high school biology course. Admittedly, in many of these high schools,
the caliber of teaching is high and the biology course offerings are first
rate by any standards. On the other hand, thousands of high school teachers
have expressed the desire for more aid in preparing and teaching a better
biology course to their students. There is wide variation in the biology courses
currently taught in American high schools. Many courses labeled biology are,
in fact, merely courses in human hygiene; others are heavily slanted toward
animal science with little or no plant science offerings. A course designed
and produced under the supervision of the AIDS, its content organized by more
than 100 of the greatest contemporary biologists in the United States, and
giving the nation's teachers the fullest help of modern teaching media, will
necessarily tend to increase the interest in and knowledge of biology for
Committee and Staff Organization of the Project
AIBS Committee on Education and Professional Recruitment is a policy-making
group and does not consider itself an action committee. It, therefore, established,
with Governing Board approval, a Steering Committee for the Secondary School
Film Series of fifteen members with Dr. Oswald Tippo of Yale University acting
as ex officio chairman. The Steering Committee consists of:
Oswald Tippo, Chairman Ex Officio, Yale University
Herbert Albrecht, Pennsylvania State University Dr. Marston Bates, University
John Bodel, The Hotchkiss School
Jean E. Cooper, Cheyenne Senior High School, Wyoming
Harriet B. Creighton, Wellesley College
Ralph Emerson, University of California
Ralph W. Gerard, University of Michigan Dr. Philip G. Johnson, Cornell University
Frank Lindsay, California State Department of Education
L. S. McClung, Indiana University
Dorothy Matala, Iowa State Teachers College Dr. Richmond Mayo-Smith, The Phillips
Daniel Mazia, University of California
John A. Moore, Columbia University
Albert E. Navez, Newton High School, Massachusetts
Steering Committee has so far met twice, on October 8th and 9th in Washington,
D. C., and on February 24th, 25th, and 26th in Santa Barbara, California.
At these meetings, the general areas to be covered by the course were established,
its major goals, and themes outlined, and lists of consultants made for each
subject area of the course.
the same time, it appointed the Steering Committee, and the Education Committee
appointed Dr. H. Burr Roney, Professor of Biology at the University of Houston,
Texas, as Director of the Secondary School project and the principal teacher
in the filmed lecture core of the course.
Roney's background fits him well for the multiple requirements of the project.
He received his doctorate at the University of Illinois in 1938 and was a
member of the faculty of the Biology Department at Western Reserve University,
Cleveland, from 1936 until 1953.
the summer of 1953, Dr. Roney has taught over 3000 college students during
more than 500 hours of televised and filmed biology lectures on Station KUHT
(the country's first educational television station) at the University of
Houston where he is also Coordinator of Instructional Television. With perhaps
more experience in instructional television and film than any other teacher,
Dr. Roney has also produced and "starred" in a series of thirteen films, "The
Nature of Life," sponsored by the National Educational Television and Radio
Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan, for national showing by educational television
stations. He is now completing a second series of thirteen films, "Heredity,"
under the same auspices.
Roney's staff on the project consists of:
Jack Steuerwald, Houston, Texas, Assistant to the Director
William H. Amos, St. Andrews School, Middle-town, Delaware, and
Joseph P. McMenamin, Oak Park-River Forest High School, Oak Park, Illinois,
Authors and Consultants for the preparation of the study guide and a teacher's
Robert B. Lewis, Aspen Public School, Aspen, Colorado, Demonstrations and
Preparations Consultant; and
Jayne Szaz, Secretary
The Secondary School Biology Course
course, which is planned to be ready for use in 1960, will consist of 120
basic lecture-demonstration films of 30-minute duration. These will be direct
teaching films primarily directed at the tenth grade level. They will be available
in both color and black and white, either individually or up to the total
of 120. They will be designed and produced in ten major topics or parts consisting
of twelve films each.
to be used with these films by the classroom teacher will be a Teacher's Manual
and Study Guides.
addition to these basic films, there will be made from thirty to forty special
additional films consisting of more advanced treatments or more detailed treatments
of the same material or of additional subjects. Later, it is intended to develop
still further supplementary materials of various sorts based on the basic
and special films. These supplementary materials will consist of film strips,
shorter films, documentaries, etc. Also, later, it is intended to supply a
laboratory guide to go with the course.
material will be designed for maximum use, in that it will be available in
any size lots from one film to the entire course and will be as flexible as
possible in arrangement of its parts. Maximum use will be made of the film
medium (including visual aids, "field" inserts, cinemicrography and animation),
within the limits of scheduled production time and available funds, and consistent
with the primary objective of instruction rather than entertainment only.
is not the intention of the various committees and consultants involved to
create a course so new or different in its approach as to be almost unusable
by the average teacher. It is, however, their intention to create a strong
course which places more emphasis on con-temporary biology than has been common
in the past at the secondary school level.
format of the films will consist of: 1) a continuing teacher in a studio-classroom
situation using models, demonstrations, living materials, and other visual
aids; 2) guest lecturers and visits to other biologists' laboratories and
field excursions; 3) use of cinemicrography and still photographs; and 4)
animation. All this within the set limits of time and capital. In other words,
if someone provides the students, a classroom teacher, a place for them to
meet, and probably a text-book, this project will provide a film teacher,
a teacher's manual in ten parts with tests and a student's study guide designed
to go with the films.
of the ten major areas to be covered in the course, each representing twelve
half-hour films, are:
I Cell Biology
III Multicellular Plants (structure and function)
IV Multicellular Animals (structure and function)
V Reproduction, Growth and Development
VII The Diversity of Plants Part VIII The Diversity of Animals
X The Machinery of Change
goal is maximum use and maximum flexibility. A pattern consisting of units
or parts which in many cases may be interchanged to suit the convenience or
preference of the teacher was thought desirable. Further, it is the intention
to encourage development of laboratory and field work and for this reason,
the basic course is designed to allow time for such laboratory or field work.
themes which will be emphasized wherever appropriate throughout the course
include the following: (the order does not indicate rank on the basis of significance,
and it should be remembered that the terminology is that of the professional
biologist, not that of a tenth-grader.)
1. Homeostasis: the organism as a dynamic, energy-transforming system, maintaining
and increasing itself through the expenditure of energy. This means an emphasis
on general, cellular and comparative physiology greater than has been usual
in introductory courses. The emphasis is to be on the verb rather than the
noun, on the process rather than its static record, on the motion picture
rather than the still picture.
2. Evolution: the continuity of organisms through time which has resulted
in their present adaptive diversity.
3. Ecology: the organism-environment complex, particularly the broad bio-geo-chemical
patterns of the circulation of matter and energy. Adaptation as a dynamic
process links ecology and evolution.
4. The complementarity of structure and function: this is another example
of the Janus faces met so commonly in science, the ever-present twins of matter-energy,
5. Man's Role in Nature as a Basis: from which it can be seen that conservation
is one of the
and most enlightened forms of self-interest from the biological point of view.
6. Methods: the process of "sciencing" as a human activity with strong roots
in the past, a forever "open-ended" present, and tremendous potentiality for
development in the future. Somehow, the biologists' pride in what is known
should be tempered by his need to know more. He must stimulate an interest
in further work in his field by being clear as to what is known, and what
still needs to be known, rather than presenting biology as a closed, completed
subject surrounded on all sides by acres of terminology. A little of the fascinating
(and sometimes confused) intellectual history of biological concepts should
help to do this.
7. Behavior: as a biological phenomenon, with adaptive significance. While
the present development of the common ground between the biological and behavioral
sciences leaves much to be desired, it is clear that each species has evolved
through its own history, resulting in its own adaptive responses. This entire
area needs more emphasis from biology. Only organ-isms behave and think; to
a large extent, how they behave and how they think depends on the kind of
various committees of consultants have also agreed that elementary physics
and chemistry should be taken up specifically when and as needed in the course;
and that no presumption of chemistry and physics pre-requisites shall be made.
about this new course recently (April 2, 1959), Dr. Roney, Directory of the
project, told members of the National Science Teachers Association:
will be in all this some new ideas for some teachers, but we trust that new
ideas are not difficult just because they are new. I hold to the conviction
that any topic or principle understandable by any of us can be dealt with
at any level of understanding. It is not necessary to pervert knowledge in
order to communicate with young students. . . .
is recognized that such a course cannot please everyone, because there are
many good teachers and many ways of teaching that are all equally successful,
but it is hoped that the composite advice of many biologists and teachers
will result in at least one kind of "good course." One of the advantages of
AIBS sponsorship is the fact that instead of creating an individual course
that might attempt to become definitive (and thereby do biology great harm)
, the AIBS can look forward over the years to continual improvement, revision,
elimination of parts or even of the whole course. Knowing the always imperfect
nature of human activity, this essential expendability is a great comfort
to me. . . .
think of these films as instruments, as tools—a medium of communication
from organism to organ-ism, not as ends in themselves, nor as a substitute
for any other aspect of communication. The kind of education we are all aiming
at needs to make use of field and laboratory experience with the objects and
processes studied in biology, and to make use of films, books, magazines and
all forms of printed material, and, to integrate all this, we still need good
teachers. We hope our efforts will be received as they are intended.
1958 AAAS-Campbell Award for Vegetable Research was given to Dr. Karl Maramorosch
of the Rockefeller Institute on December 30th, during the AAAS Annual Meetings
in Washington, D. C. The award consists of $1,500 and a bronze medal, given
for "an outstanding single research contribution, of either fundamental or
practical significance, in the fields of horticulture, genetics, soil science,
plant physiology, entomology, plant pathology, or other appropriate scientific
areas." This was the second time that the award was made; it was established
by the Campbell Soup Company and is being administered by a commit-tee appointed
by the AAAS.
Sears, Professor of Botany and Chairman of the Conservation Program at Yale,
was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Wayne State University
Cooley Award of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists for the best paper
on the southeastern flora published during the year 1957 was made to Dr. James
Harlan P. Banks, Department of Botany, Cornell University, has been elected
a Corresponding Member of the Societe Geologique de Belgique.
Wendell V. Showalter, Ph.D., Professor of Biology and Chairman of the Department
at Hastings College, Hastings, Nebraska, was presented the 1958 Distinguished
Teacher Award at a special convocation. The award carries with it a monetary
gift of $1,000.
a meeting in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on October 27, 1958, the Canadian Society
of Plant Physiologists was founded. The new society grew out of a series of
Annual Research Conferences on Plant Physiology that had been held at various
Canadian universities and research institutions over a period of eight years.
The officers of the new society are: Paul R. Gorham, President; E. R. Waygood,
Vice-President; D. Siminovitch, Secretary-Treasurer; R. O. Bibbey, Eastern
Director; Steward A. Brown, Western Director. Correspondence should be addressed
to The Secretary-Treasurer, Chemistry Division, Canada Department of Agriculture,
Research - The Next
KENNETH V. THIMANN *
I was a boy, an incident occurred which made quite an impression on me, but
which I have never even thought about since, until our indefatigable secretary
inveigled me into making this Excursion into the Future. A visitor came to
see my mother, a Mrs. Peacock, and in the course of conversation it was mentioned
that a professional fortune teller and crystal gazer had come to live in the
next street. Mrs. Peacock became most interested in this—it seemed she
had a particular passion to know about her future—and the upshot of
it was that I, being a small boy with nothing to do, was deputed to take Mrs.
Peacock around there. We were shown into the modest living room and the old
lady, dressed in flowing robes ornamented with signs of the zodiac, seated
herself at a table before a large crystal ball—quite silent. We sat
there in silence for a while, she peering into the ball, until presently she
said "The field is full of feathers; I see feathers floating and falling."
"What kind of feathers?" says Mrs. Peacock. "0, they are green, beautiful
bluish green; round feathers with a large eye in the middle." Well, I needn't
tell you what they were;—the old lady was seeing Peacock feathers.
although this achievement of divining the name of her visitor was quite remarkable,
I regret to say that the old lady did not go on to divine anything much about
her visitor's future, and after about half an hour or so of vague talk Mrs.
Peacock took her departure somewhat disappointed. So the moral of that story
seems to be "It's easier to tell the present than the future." Or perhaps
in a form more apt for the present occasion—Those who can't tell the
future might at least try to tell the present.
instead of trying to discern the future of botanical research in the crystal
ball, we may find it more effective to describe the present state of the science
and see if we can discern what trends are likely to develop in the coming
first and most obvious trend is that of Increasing Specialization. We need
not spend much time on this. Everyone knows that the days of the general botanist,
when a man like Hofmeister could work successfully in anatomy, morphology,
physiology and biophysics, are gone, and doubtless for good. Even though many
professorships are still held in General Botany, at least in Europe, the Professor
works only in one field and leaves his junior staff to cover the others; frequently
Revised from a talk given at the A.I.B.S. Meetings, Bloomington, Indiana,
August 26, 1958 at a symposium titled The Scientific Foundations of Botany
for the Second Half of The Twentieth Century: An Appraisal of Current and
Future Trends." lectures only in his own field too. Nowadays, indeed, it is
very difficult for one man to represent the whole of even ONE field; in physiology,
for instance, Growth, Photosynthesis, Mineral Nutrition and Water Relations
have become firmly established as four separate sub-fields (these are not
the only ones) and a man is very fortunate, or hard-working, or both, if he
can keep up with the developments in one of these. The same is true in Genetics,
where Cytogenetics, Population Genetics and Biochemical Genetics (at least)
are similarly well-developed sub-fields.
is a second trend, equally evident. One fine day two or three years ago I
walked into the greenhouse and saw an unexpected and rather mysterious sight—one
of our taxonomists was peacefully sitting at a bench transplanting hundreds
of seedlings. He was not merely preparing (as I first naturally thought) to
raise tomatoes in his next summer's garden, but was embarking on a study of
Variation in some wildflower of which he had collected seeds. Such a sight
is now becoming less rare— it seems that taxonomists no longer merely
collect their plants, describe them and organize the descriptions —nowadays
they grow them. It is the same way with morphologists; my colleague, Dr. Wetmore,
no longer merely cuts sections and puts together a series of planes to evolve
a three-dimensional picture—he has to alter the morphology experimentally.
He grows tissue cultures, or raises plants in the controlled environment rooms,
to subject their morphological development to Experiment. We have been aware
for some time that cytologists also are no longer content to look at their
chromosomes, but they first irradiate the plants. or vary their nutrition,
and study the effect of the treatment.
study of the algae too is rapidly becoming more experimental, and algologists
now occupy themselves to a large extent with culturing algae for experimental
studies such as growth, tactic movements, and photo-synthesis. They offer
marvelous experimental material of which not enough advantage has been taken.
colleagues, the pathologists, are celebrating their jubilee this year, and
what do we find on their program? Very little about the taxonomy of the parasites,
little even on the classical subject of the life-cycles of pathogenic fungi,
but a good part of the Symposium is devoted to the Physiology of diseased
Plants, a subject that can only be studied by growing plants and by experimental
look at what has happened to Ecology, under the impact of mountain experiment
stations, controlled environment laboratories, phytotrons and the like. Experimental
ecology has taken a tremendous surge forward.
these formerly descriptive branches of botany have changed their faces drastically
in the last few years, and their exponents are now thinking in terms of Cause
and Effect, or better yet, of Experimental Control. At present we separate
them from the descriptive sciences by designating them Experimental Taxonomy,
Morphology and the rest, but what is the betting that in another generation
or less these will be the only kind of Taxonomy, Morphology, Ecology, etc.,
extant, and the old descriptive kind will be largely obsolete?
with the spread of Experimentalism into descriptive fields goes a third trend:
the parallel spread of Chemistry into experimental and structural fields of
Botany. It is as though our whole scale is moving towards the molecular level.
Some parts of physiology, like carbohydrate metabolism, are almost purely
biochemistry now; some parts of genetics are really enzymology; the borderline
between submicroscopic plant anatomy and the organic chemistry of polymers
is be-coming blurred out and obviously going to disappear in the near future.
I have an unhappy feeling that as botanists we are not sufficiently aware
of this invasion of chemistry—we do not make enough use of the ideas
and techniques that chemistry can contribute, and we do not train our research
students enough in chemical methods and concepts. To a lesser extent the same
is true for physics, which is also just beginning to stage an invasion; it
has done so in the field of Photosynthesis, of course, for a great many years.
But this is another matter and let us pass on after simply noting the trend.
fourth trend is one which I wish to discuss a little because it is not so
obvious, and as a matter of fact it had not really become clear to me until
I started thinking about this talk. It is an outgrowth of the specialization
already mentioned, and for want of a better term I shall call it "Cross-focussing."
One sees it developing in Virus Genetics, where along with (a) the methods
and concepts of Genetics the workers use (b) the Chemical Structure of Nucleic
Acids; or in Bacterial Genetics, where one combines (a) Pure Culture Techniques
with (b) Enzyme Biochemistry. It is a tendency to focus on one Aspect, or
one Structure, of the plant, and to bring to bear upon it techniques and ideas
from an apparently very distant field. It is not just added breadth, but something
more specific. One of the oldest examples is Douglas' work on tree-rings and
meteorological records, and I need not tell you how valuable this has been
in Anthropology. Indeed it is because the techniques and ideas used cut across
our present conventional sections of Botany that it becomes possible for Cross-Focussing
to lead to new and perhaps revolutionary advances. Students of photosynthesis
now begin to be vitally interested in the Sub-Microscopic Anatomy of the Chloroplast;
witness the Brookhaven 1958 Symposium, "The Photochemical Apparatus; Its Structure
and Function." There is a similar pairing between the study of Oxidation Systems
and the Structure of the Mitochondrion. The pairing between Cell-wall Anatomy
and Polysaccharide Chemistry is of long standing, and a third side of this
triangle links it with Textile Engineering. Other pairing which might be mentioned:
Protoplasm studies and Hydrodynamics; Phototropism and Radiation biophysics;
Forest Measurement and Aerial
Photography; Historial Paleobotany and Isotope physics (as in isotope dating).
each case the second of the pair has been brought in to help in an attack
on the first one, and it is the focussing on the first—the botanical
problem—that is the drive. Thus it may be that in the future we shall
see, instead of our conventional division—anatomy, morphololgy, genetics,
physiology, etc.— the emergence of new disciplines based upon these
special problems and structures, disciplines with names like Chloroplastics,
Mitochondriology, Membrane studies, Cytoplasmatics or Phytophotology. Dr.
Bonner this morning referred to "phytoaerodynamics." Such studies will be
more specialized than our present work in one way, in that they will focus
on a more limited area of the plant and its life, but they will be less specialized
in another way, in that they will bring in many different approaches and unify
them into a single attack on the chosen problem. They will make, of course,
very special demands on the training and attitude of the researcher, and that
I will come back to in a few minutes.
medical profession has done rather well in this direction. A thyroid specialist,
for instance, is accustomed to looking at histological sections of thyroid
glands, carrying out metabolic tests for thyroid function, and endocrinological
studies of the control of thyroid secretion. He studies Structure and Function
together. Along with this too goes the inevitable awareness of the psychology
of the human patient and perhaps in some cases even the Sociology of the hospital
ward. Other branches of medicine make similar "cross-focussing" combinations,
and examples will readily occur to any of you who have been unlucky enough
to fall ill. Of course medicine cannot be directly compared with botany, since
it deals with the biology of only one organism. Botany might be in the same
position if all botanists were content to study, say, Corn or Phycomyces.
But since we take the entire plant kingdom for our bailiwick we may expect
that our specialization will be slower to develop.
the whole this cross-focussing, especially between structure and function,
has not made much progress in botany yet. Certainly we are not doing much
to help it along. We do pay lip service to the interrelation of Structure
and Function, however, when we show how Evolution has developed particular
organs for particular needs, and this means that we recognize that, in the
life of a successful organism, its structures have become admirably adapted
and refined for the efficient performance of specific functions. To put it
another way, each Function is a precise and delicate expression of a specific
Structure. Therefore the cross-focussing of which I speak will be an important
step forward in botanical research, leading to a deeper insight into the essence
of plant life. But do we prepare our students for such work?
an engineering student studying the Internal
Engine. In the first year he is given a course on the Morphology of Internal
Combustion Engines, covering the general outline, the machining of the cylinder
and piston to fit closely, the structure of the bearings, the phyllotaxy of
the insertion of lateral openings like plugs and manifolds, and also the morphology
of associated organs like magnetos and silencers. There would also be a brief
history of Internal Combustion Engines showing how the various parts have
become modified and refined with continuous use and adaptation. The point
is that in all this, excellent in itself, there would be hardly any mention
of the fact that the thing is designed to go round and round, and to do work.
the second year (a whole year later) he gets an-other course, this time giving
the theory of heat engines, Carnot's cycle, the heat of combustion of hydrocarbons,
and the thermal expansion of gases. Little in this course mentions or even
relates to the actual structure of a real Internal Combustion Engine designed
to make use of these natural principles.
perhaps in an advanced course, limited to very few of the brightest students,
destined only for re-search, some attempt may be made to present the engine
as a functioning entity, each part designed to act in a specific way, with
the little arrows showing the carefully planned path of the gas streams.
sort of an engineer would he make—how well qualified to design engines
for maximum efficiency in running, or to comprehend the working of an unfamiliar
type of engine when he is confronted with it? Obviously no engineering school
would dream of offering such a curriculum. Yet this is exactly what we are
doing in botanical training; we teach anatomy and physiology as absolutely
separate subjects. Taxonomists and foresters, in many schools, do not even
have to take physiology, while biochemists are neither required nor expected
to take morphology or cytology. Pathology, which corresponds to the diagnosis
and repair of engine failure, scarcely appears in any general botany course
but is tucked away by itself in yet another compartment. For this reason we
should, I feel, aim at re-planning our botanical teaching, say over the next
5 or 10 years, in such a way as to give a more rounded approach to each special
subject, whether it be study of a specific organ or tissue or cell type, or
a specific type of plant or group of types. It should be noted carefully that
I do not mean merely teaching anatomy, physiology and evolution in the same
course, for that would lead only to confusion; I mean trying to make the much
more difficult synthesis, and presenting the subject matter as a single whole.
It should not be necessary to remind our-selves that this is the way the plant
itself organizes its life.
surveying, in this way, our present trends, and trying to extrapolate them
into the future, we cannot help feeling that something may be missing. Is
it all too down to earth? We have not allowed for the wind from heaven, for
the inrush of a new idea or a new method, from an unexpected quarter. If one
had surveyed medical research 50 years ago, and did so again now, comparing
the then popular crude plant extracts with the present physician's armamentarium
of hormones, antibiotics, and pacifying drugs, one would be hard put to it
to say which medical discovery has been the most instrumental in saving life.
Actually most effective of all has probably been the Telephone. Who is to
say whether some wonderful new concept,—as far reaching as Evolution—may
not swim into the minds of biologists in the next 50 years,—or some
new technique—as widely applicable as that of Isotopes—may not
become available from another science? Will botanists be in the forefront
in accepting these gifts from heaven? That again will depend largely on the
training and apprenticeship the new generation receives. We can only pray
that the coming generation will yield a few men capable of rising above the
training we are now giving them, and able to make the only progress in botanical
research which matters, namely the understanding of real plants as they exist
and live, without limitations of specialty. If only a few succeed in this,
then the next 50 years will be exciting indeed.
Bloomington, Ind. newspaper reports that a special committee of the Botanical
Society of America Thursday completed a two-day meeting at Indiana University
to plan long-range policies of the Society and its publications.
committee, appointed at the meeting of the American Institute of Biological
Sciences at I.U. in August, includes Prof. James Canright of the I.U. Botany
Department, who is business manager of the Society's "American Journal of
attending were Prof. Ralph Wetmore, Harvard University, Committee Chairman;
Prof. Richard Goodwin, Head of the Botany Department at Connecticut College;
Prof. Harold C. Bold, University of Texas, editor of the "American Journal
of Botany"; A. J. Sharp, Head of the Botany Department, University of Tennessee
and treasurer of the Society; and John Behnke, vice-president of the Ronald
Press, New York City.
Bohdan Slavik of the Ceskoslovenska Akademie ved Biologicky Ustav, Editor
of the new journal Biologia Plantarunn which begins publication in 1959 will
be a quarterly containing papers in English, Russian and German. The editorial
office is at the Institute of Biology, Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, Praha
6, Na cvicisti 2.