Grew, Nehemiah 1641-1712

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Grew was the co-founder of plant anatomy with Malpighi. He was born in Coventry, England, and was a practicing doctor first in Coventry and then in London. He began work on plant anatomy in 1664 with the object of comparing plant and animal tissues.

He read an essay before the Royal Society of London in 1670 which was published one year later. Malphighi who had been working independently on the same subject in Italy, sent his work also the Royal Society and an abstract was read at the December, 1671 meeting where Grew's manuscript, now in print, was "laid on the table." Both works then bear the same date although Grew is entitled to priority.

The second part of Grew's treatise appeared appeared in May, 1672, and a third in the spring of 1674. The object of the work is indicated by grew's preface, "by thus comparing of them (i.e., the several plants or parts of plants) we shall be able more exactly to state the orders and degrees of their affinities; better to understand both the causes and ends of their varieties and more probably to conjecture their natures and virtues." Thus, he approached botany from the medical standpoint (as in Herbals) but it was his knowledge of anatomy which opened his mind to the possibilities of similar work with the bodies of plants as the subject.

His fundamental thesis was that every plant organ consists of two "organical parts essentially distinct," that is, a "Pithy part" and the ligneous part or parts analagous to these. In the seed, "the pithy part" is composed of "parenchyma" a term first used by Grew. He described also rather correctly the stages of germination in seeds although the underlying physiology was hopelessly confused.

He invested terms "radicle" for embryonic root and used term "plume" for "plumule". He called cotyledons "leaves" but recognized that they might in some cases appear above ground and turn green.

He observed monocot stems with scattered bundles and lack of distinct bark and pith; resin ducts in cortex of pine stem; wings and "feathers" on seeds and fruit; protection and economy of space gained by inbrication of bud scales; folding rolling of leaves in buds; buds formed months before they expand; "a bulb is, as it were, a great bud under ground"; saw tulip flower present in bulb in September; noted that pollen grains were "bee-bread"; believed micropyle allowed water to enter seed and cause germination.

He made the first successful attempt to extract chlorophyl from leaves using oil as a solvent. His important work was Anatomy of Plants (1682). There were no important advances on the ideas of Grew and Malphighi for more than a century.