Since the age of the ancient oriental peoples, of Greeks and Romans, a lot of scolars were involved with the analysis of plants.
In Greek mythology the god Apollo presided at the study of medicinal herbs both in a therapeutic, for example healing diseases, and in a poisoning way, with the aim of provoking a pestilence. The centaur Chiron and his disciple Asclepius (the Aesculapius of the Latins) as well were masters of the magical study of the plants. While the Greek world used plants for medical purposes, the Roman studied how to use plants to improve life and hygiene. Dioscorides was one of the most known scientist: with his “De Materia Medica” (“About Medical Matter”), he paved the way for herbalists and botanists in the following centuries.

The studies of the doctor Galeno from Pergamo concerning medicinal preparations treating sick people from natural drugs, gave him a large success, perpetuated until the Renaissance. Also in the Middle Age some illustrious scientist devoted themselves to these studies: we remember for example the “Scuola Salernitana” (“School of Salerno “), which first combined the study of plants and their derivatives with a more rational experimentation and a direct application.

During the Renaissance: Marco Polo’s and Nicolò Conti’s travels brought to the West news and studies on many species of plants still unknown. The first herbarium listed all the different species, through accurate descriptions and paintings.

In the sixteenth century a great and contoversial scientist became suddenly well known in Europe: Paracelsus, whose studies often mixed depth researches (the beginning of pharmaceutics is attributed to him) with magical and necromantic theories. During these years a breakthrough in the studies: if plants were until now just sought and collected in nature, from now on began the creation of botanical gardens. The foundation of botanical gardens avoided students to wander through fields and meadows. Actually there is only one still operative botanical garden  in the University of Padua since 1545, its construction’s year.

The studies of plants continued throughout the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, on the contrary, the interest on the plants began to change, due to the exponential growth of chemical processes and to new methods of investigation.”


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