Science College, General Science Dept
THE FIRST BOTANISTS
In many ways, Native Americans were as skilled as university trained botanists, but their goals were different. Professional botanists were primarily interested in naming and classifying plants, whereas Native Americans learned how the different kinds of plants could be used as foods, medicines, cosmetics, dyes, and craft and building materials. Unfortunately, much of the knowledge accrued by Native Americans was passed along orally, so when the knowledge began to be used less it started to get lost. Fortunately, at least some professional botanists and anthropologists decided to study these traditional plant uses and founded a field called ethnobotany. Now extensive written records of Native American plant uses exist, although some uses have most certainly been lost.