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REVIEW: The Life of Plants.


Originally published in 1964, E.J.H Corner's 'The Life of Plants' carries a certain old world charm to its subject. Plant biology had still to experience the accelerated growth that the computer age would bring to it and Corner's passion and involvement with his subject make this book more like reading an old novel than a text book.

Written as an introduction to plant biology, 'The Life of Plants' is written with an intelligent, but not knowledgeable, audience in mind. It begins with the things we all know about, the things we were taught in high school biology - micro-organisms, cell structure, osmosis etc - and takes us back to how plant life itself began; in the ocean.

The journey Corner takes us on is fascinating and is helped greatly by a brisk and clear writing style, that suffers occasionally only from the restraints of academic writing of the time. It is always interesting and seldom confusing. The life of plants from single cell organisms in the ocean through seaweeds and algae to the 'top dogs' of the plant world, land plants and trees is a world unknown to most. We assume that there has always been plants on the land as well as the sea, but the sea-dwellers came first, and the land plant, much like in mammal evolution, is at the top of the plants' evolutionary scale.

Corner's descriptions of plants bring the subjects to life. His use of language is superb, and the minutia of detail outstanding. This new edition contains black and white photographs of many plants and trees mentioned and studied bringing them into the real world, and while the scientific diagrams and cell dissections are a little small and basic, they do not hinder your reading of the book.

CONCLUSION: Although the world of plant biology has gone way beyond the experiences and studies of Corner, his book should still stand as an example of how to write an introduction to any scientific subject. He combines analysis and opinion superbly, and, best of all, he lets the book flow like a novel, resisting the temptation to cut out his enthusiasm and present the life of plants as a dull academic chronology. A great book and an a welcome relief to the dry tedium of most scientific works.

Title: The Life of PlantsAuthor: E.J.H CornerPublished by: The University of Chicago PressISBN: 0 226 11615 8Price: GBP22.50Reviewer: Matt Stewart
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:M2 Best Books
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 5, 2004
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