The Father of Plant Anatomy
March 25, 1641
Today is the birthday of the Father of Plant Anatomy, Nehemiah Grew.
Nehemiah was an English botanist and was the first person to illustrate the inner structures and functions of plants in all their amazing intricacies. Specifically,
Nehemiah illustrated eighty images in his 1682 book called Anatomy of Plants, which was divided into four topics: Anatomy of Vegetables begun, Anatomy of Roots, Anatomy of Trunks, and Anatomy of Leaves, Flowers, Fruits, and Seeds.
Nehemiah was one of the first naturalists to incorporate the microscope in the study of plant morphology. Nehemiah’s unique perspective is what he tried to recreate in his drawings. For instance, Nehemiah's drawings of tree parts cut transversely look like intricate laser cuts.
If you've ever seen a Nehemiah Grew drawing, you'll probably agree that you can spot them a mile away. But, if you've never seen a Nehemiah Grew drawing, imagine a mandala or an etch-a-sketch drawing on steroids. The lines in these drawings are impossibly thin, and the level of detail is staggering.
Nehemiah’s use of the microscope allowed him to write about it intimately, and he wrote the first known microscopic description of pollen.
And as you might imagine, Nehemiah’s obsession with the microscope even extended to the human body. So, it’s not surprising to learn that Nehemiah was also the first person to analyze the ridges, furrows, grooves, and pores on human hands and feet. He published his incredibly accurate drawings of finger ridge patterns in 1684. Palm readers owe Nehemiah a debt of gratitude. (Just kidding.... or am I?)
Now, if you’d like to try something fun this summer, you can channel your inner Nehemiah Grew and get a microscope on Amazon or at a thrift store and check out your own plant specimens under the microscope.