Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal | Cincinnati History Library and Archives

Hauck Botanical Exhibit

Nehemiah Grew, 1641-1712

The Anatomy of Plants.
London: W. Rawlins for the Author, 1682.

Cover of The Anatomy of Plants

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Nehemiah Grew and the Italian physician and naturalist, Marcello Malpighi (1628-1694), are important for their research in the field of microscopic botany, and as founders of the science of plant anatomy. Each physician worked independently, apparently unaware of the other's parallel research.

Grew did research in the field of microscopic botany and plant anatomy.

Grew, born in Mancetter, England, was the son of Obadiah Grew, a clergyman and schoolmaster. He studied at Coventry and graduated from Cambridge University. He received his M.D. from the University of Leiden and maintained an active medical practice throughout his life, first in Coventry and later in London.

Title page of The Anatomy of Plants
Title Page

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Aware that early writings about animal structure existed but that there were none for plant structure, Grew undertook a study and presented his first writing, The Anatomy of Vegetables Begun, to the Royal Society of London. It was published by the Society in 1671 (Henrey 1975, v.1, 135).

In 1671 he was made a Curator of the Royal Society whose members contributed funds for the publication of additional related writings. His second treatise, An Idea of a Phytological History Propounded. Together with a Continuation of the Anatomy of Vegetables, Particularly Prosecuted Upon Roots . . . was published in 1673, and the third, The Comparative Anatomy of Trunks, in 1675.

Vine-root cut transversly from The Anatomy of Plants
Vine-Root Cut Transversly

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In 1682, these three treatises were published as one volume, titled The Anatomy of Plants. With An Idea of a Philosophical History of Plants . . . . The work contained eighty-three engraved plates showing the several parts of a plant in one view so that their texture and relation to one another is seen in one view (Anatomy of Plants, preface).


Henrey, Blanche. British Botanical and Horticultural Literature Before 1800. London: Oxford University Press, 1975. pp.135-140.

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