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The miscellaneous botanical works Vol.III Altas of plates 多樣植物的研究

Robert Brown (1773-1858), author of this book, is the renowned botanist in the 19th century who discovered “Brownian motion.” He made significant contributions to the discovery of plants in Australia and to cell theory. After finishing his medical studies in the University of Edinburgh, Brown joined the army as a doctor. In 1800, he joined the famous navigator Matthew Flinders’ voyage to Australia and landed on the west coast of the continent in 1801. He spent three and a half years studying the native plants in Australia and accumulated specimens of 3,400 species, 2,000 of which were unknown at the time.

After returning to his motherland, Brown spent another five years studying those specimens and identified 1,200 new species. He published his results and his most famous book is the Prodromus Flora Novae Hollandiae (Unknown Flora in New Holland). This book marks the first comprehensive survey on the flora across Australia. In the book, 2,040 species were recorded. More than half of these were newly discovered.

Another compendium that Brown wrote on the botany of Australia is called The Miscellaneous Botanical Works. It comprises of three volumes and is about Brown’s research on phytogeography, plant structure, plant physiology and plant taxonomy. Furthermore, a great number of anatomical diagrams were collected in this book, displaying the multiple forms and structures of plants at a microscopic level, which distinguishes this book from other similar works. Brown’s interest in plant structure led him to further research into the pollen grains and spores suspended in water. He observed minute particles in the pollen grains undergo a continuous jittery motion, and discovered the same type of motion in particles of dust. Though it was Albert Einstein, not him, who was finally able to explain this motion, scientists of later generations call this phenomenon “Brownian motion.” This is one important contribution a botanist made to physics.

Note. Published in 1868, the copy preserved at Forestry Research Institute is the only surviving version in Taiwan.


Digital Archives Project of TFRI's Library of Forestry Literature in The Period of Japanese-Database of TFRI’s Forestry Literature in the Period of Japanese Colonization