Botany, the study of plants, occupies a peculiar position in the history of human knowledge.For many thousands of years it was the one field of awareness about which humans had anything more than the vaguest of insights. It is impossible to know today just what our Stone Age ancestors knew about plants, but from what we can observe of preindustrial societies that still exist a detailed learning of plants and their properties must be extremely ancient. This is logical. Plants are the basis of the food pyramid for all living things even for other plants. They have always been enormously important to the welfare of people not only for food, but also for clothing, weapons, tools, dyes, medicines, shelter, and a great many other purposes. Tribes living today in the jungles of the Amazon recognize literally hundreds of plants and know many properties of each. To them, botany, as such, has no name and is probably not even recognized as a special branch of "knowledge"at all. Unfortunately, the more industrialized we become the farther away we move from direct contact with plants, and the less distinct our knowledge of botany grows. Yet everyone comes unconsciously on an amazing amount of botanical knowledge, and few people will fail to recognize a rose, an apple, or an orchid. When our Neolithic ancestors, living in the Middle East about 10, 000 years ago, discovered that certain grasses could be harvested and their seeds planted for richer yields the next season the first great step in a new association of plants and humans was taken. Grains were discovered and from them flowed the marvel of agriculture: cultivated crops. From then on, humans would increasingly take their living from the controlled production of a few plants, rather than getting a little here and a little there from many varieties that grew wild - and the accumulated knowledge of tens of thousands of years of experience and intimacy with plants in the wild would begin to fade away.
植物学,即对植物的研究,在人类知识的历史中占据了特殊的地位。 这是人类几千年来超越模糊的认知而真正有所了解的领域之一。 我们今天不可能知道新石器时代的祖先们对植物到底了解多少,但我们在至今仍存在的前工业化社会观察到:人类对植物及其特性的详细了解应该是非常古老的。 这是理所当然的。 植物是其他生物甚至其他植物食物金字塔的基础。 它们对人们的生活至关重要,不仅在食物上,而且在衣物、武器、工具、染料、药物、住所和许许多多其他的用途上。 至今仍生活在亚马逊河丛林中的部落确实能够辨识几百种植物并知道每一种的许多特性。 对他们来说,植物学没有专门的名称,甚至可能根本未被认为是一种专门知识。 不幸的是,工业化的程度越高,我们距直接与植物接触就越远,我们的植物学知识的增加也就越微不足道。 然而每个人在不知不觉中拥有大量的植物学知识,很少有人认不出玫瑰、苹果或兰花。 大约一万年前居住在中东的新时代的祖先们发现某些草能被收获,它们的种子下一季耕种会收获更多时,人类就迈出了人和植物之间的新关系第一大步。 谷子被发现后,农业的奇迹从此诞生:这就是可栽培的谷物。 从那时起,人类越来越依赖少数可控制的作物生存,而不再是从众多的野生种类中这里获取一点,那里获取一点。 这样在千万年中对于野生植物的经验和密切联系中积累起来的知识就开始消失了。