History of ethnobotany
Though the term "ethnobotany" was not coined until 1895 by the US botanist John William Harshberger, the history of the field begins long before that. In Pythagoreanism which originated in 500 BC refused to eat beans because of the human relationship to it through matter. In A.D. 77, the Greek surgeon Dioscorides published "De Materia Medica", which was a catalog of about 600 plants in the Mediterranean. It also included information on how the Greeks used the plants, especially for medicinal purposes. This illustrated herbal contained information on how and when each plant was gathered, whether or not it was poisonous, its actual use, and whether or not it was edible (it even provided recipes). Dioscorides stressed the economic potential of plants. For generations, scholars learned from this herbal, but did not actually venture into the field until after the Middle Ages due to the Inquisition. In 1542 Leonhart Fuchs, a Renaissance artist, led the way back into the field. His "De Historia Stirpium" cataloged 400 plants native to Germany and Austria. John Ray (1686–1704) provided the first definition of "species" in his "Historia Plantarum": a species is a set of individuals who give rise through reproduction to new individuals similar to themselves. In 1753 Carl Linnaeus wrote "Species Plantarum", which included information on about 5,900 plants. Linnaeus is famous for inventing the binomial method of nomenclature, in which all species get a two part name (genus, species). The 19th century saw the peak of botanical exploration. Alexander von Humboldt collected data from the n
w world, and the James Cook's voyages brought back collections and information on plants from the South Pacific. At this time major botanical gardens were started, for instance the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Edward Palmer collected artifacts and botanical specimens from people in the North American West (Great Basin) and Mexico from the 1860s to the 1890s. Once enough data existed, the field of "aboriginal botany" was founded. Aboriginal botany is the study of all forms of the vegetable world which aboriginal peoples use for food, medicine, textiles, ornaments, etc. The first individual to study the emic perspective of the plant world was a German physician working in Sarajevo at the end of 19th Century: Leopold Glueck. His published work on traditional medical uses of plants done by rural people in Bosnia (1896) has to be considered the first modern ethnobotanical work. The term "ethnobotany" was first used by a botanist named John W. Harshberger in 1895 while he was teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. Although the term was not used until 1895, practical interests in ethnobotany go back to the beginning of civilization when people relied on plants for survival. Other scholars analyzed uses of plants under an indigenous/local perspective in the 20th century: e.g. Matilda Coxe Stevenson, Zuni plants (1915); Frank Cushing, Zuni foods (1920); Keewaydinoquay Peschel, Anishinaabe fungi (1998), and the team approach of Wilfred Robbins, JP Harrington, and Barbara Freire-Marreco, Tewa pueblo plants (1916).