The rise of Chinese palaeobotany, emphasizing the global context
The record of fossil plants in China can date back to the year 1086 during the Chinese Song Dynasty. The subject of palaeobotany was transplanted into China in the early 20th century. The rise of Chinese palaeobotany had direct connections with the world. V.K. Ting played a major role in the establishment of academic organizations and English journals for Chinese geological sciences, which also received support from foreign experts. A geological approach for palaeotanical studies was once popular in China because of practical use. H.C. Sze is usually called ‘the founder of Chinese palaeobotany’. Sze was a disciple of W. Gothan and made a great contribution to the development of Chinese palaeobotany using a geological approach. Hu Hsen Hsü followed Asa Gray and thought that palaeobotany might be considered as a plant science subject. Hu’s study on Metasequoia enhanced his reputation: the discovery of the living plants of Metasequoia is believed to be one of the most important discoveries in the 20th century. Hsü Jen majored in plant morphology and anatomy, and obtained palaeobotanical training in Birbal Sahni’s laboratory in the 1940s. Hsü preferred to employ a biological approach to work on fossil plants.
Figures & Tables
Often regarded as the ‘Cinderella’ of palaeontological studies, palaeobotany has a history that contains some fascinating insights into scientific endeavour, especially by palaeontologists who were perusing a personal interest rather than a career. The problems of maintaining research facilities in universities, especially in the modern era, are described and reveal a noticeable absence of a national UK strategy to preserve centres of excellence in an avowedly specialist area. Accounts of some of the pioneers demonstrate the importance of collaboration between taxonomists and illustrators. The importance of palaeobotany in the rise of geoconservation is outlined, as well as the significant and influential role of women in the discipline. Although this volume has a predominantly UK focus, two very interesting studies outline the history of palaeobotanical work in Argentina and China.