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Julius Sachs (1868): The father of plant physiology
Abstract and Figures
The year 2018 marks the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Julius von Sachs' (1832–1897) Lehrbuch der Botanik (Textbook of Botany), which provided a comprehensive summary of what was then known about the plant sciences. Three years earlier, in 1865, Sachs produced the equally impressive Handbuch der Experimental‐Physiologie der Pflanzen (Handbook of Experimental Plant Physiology), which summarized the state of knowledge in all aspects of the discipline known today as plant physiology. Both of these books provided numerous insights based on Sachs' seminal experiments. By virtue of a reliance on detailed empirical observation and the rigorous application of chemical and physical principles, it is fair to say that the publication of these two monumental works marked the beginning of what can be called “modern‐day” plant science. Moreover, Sachs' Lehrbuch der Botanik prefigured the ascendance of plant molecular biology and the systems biology of photoautotrophic organisms. Regrettably, many of the insights of this great scientist have been forgotten by the generations who followed. It is only fitting, therefore, that the anniversary of the publication of the Lehrbuch der Botanik and the career of “the father of plant physiology” should be honored and reviewed, particularly because Sachs established the physiology of green organisms as an integral branch of botany and incorporated a Darwinian perspective into plant biology. Here we highlight key insights, with particular emphasis on Sachs' detailed discussion of sexual reproduction at the cellular level and his endorsement of Darwinian evolution.
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