History of Phycology - Early Days

Early Days

The study of botany goes back into pre-history as plants were the food of people from the beginning of the human race. The first attempts at plant cultivation are believed to have been made shortly before 10,000 BC in Western Asia (Morton, 1981) and the first references to algae are to be found in early Chinese literature. Records as far back as 3000 BC indicate that algae were used by the emperor of China as food (Huisman, 2000 p. 13). The use of Porphyra in China dates back to at least A.D. 533–44 (Mumfard and Miura, 1988), there are also references in Roman and Greek literature. The Greek word for algae was "Phycos" whilst in Roman times the name became Fucus. There are early references to the use of algae for manure. The first coralline algae to be recognized as living organisms were probably Corallina, by Pliny the Elder in the 1st century AD (Irvine and Chamberlain, 1994 p. 11).

The classification of plants suffered many changes since Theophrastus (372–287 B.C.) and Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) grouped them as "trees", "shrubs" and "herbs" (Smith, 1955 p. 1).

Little is known of botany during the Middle Ages — it was the Dark Ages of botany.

The development of the study of phycology runs in a pattern comparable with, and parallel to, other biological fields but at a different rate. After the invention of the printing-press in the 15th century (with the publication of the first printed book: Gutenberg's Bible of 1488) education enabled people to read and knowledge to spread.

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Early Days

Early Days is the name of the annual journal of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society. It has been published regularly since 1927 and includes articles relating to the History of Western Australia written by society members or delivered at the monthly general meetings. Until 1938 it bore the unlikely title Journal and Proceedings.

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