applied science

Stefanie Galgon smg4 at DANA.UCC.NAU.EDU
Mon Jul 19 12:55:39 EST 1999


There is a fine line between primary and applied science, especially when
pertaining to the field of botany.  When I entered into the research field
under the tutelage of my major professor, I was told that applied science
was poo-poo, and I would only be published if I stuck with the "pure"
stuff.  But, isn't applied science where the fun begins?  Okay, we've
discovered this compound, let's check if it has antimicrobial or antiviral
activity!  Unfortunately, when any one brings up "applied science," an
image displays in my mind --  I picture lab gophers running around amidst
gas chromatographs, dishes, and microscopes, never observing or
questioning, but simply going through the motions while being paid squat.
I would love to be given the opportunity to glorify applied botanical


Stefanie Galgon			lab/message: (520) 523-7735
Department of Biology		
Northern Arizona University	smg4 at

"Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death"  
Auntie Mame

On Sun, 18 Jul 1999, David Hershey wrote:

> I still think Liberty Hyde Bailey was correct that making an artificial
> distinction between basic (pure) and applied science is not beneficial,
> especially in a natural science like botany. It polarizes and divides
> botanists and leads to attacks on both types. Perhaps there is pure
> mathematics but I'm not even sure there really is "pure botany." You can
> do basic research even in applied areas like grafting or sugar maple sap
> flow. Discoveries in many so-called "basic" areas of plant research,
> such as plant hormones, genetics, tissue culture and photoperiodism,
> have provided major economic gains. Do you classify Mendel's research as
> applied because he studied cultivated plants and his laws of genetics
> have had tremendous economic value? The goal of all research is the
> same, to discover new knowledge. 
> Even a botanist who studies a wildflower species with apparently no
> economic value may eventually find their work has applied value if
> people start to cultivate the plant as an ornamental or to save it from
> extinction, discover that it contains valuable chemicals, or the plant
> gets on the endangered species list and stops a major construction
> project. Arabidopsis was once a species with little or no economic
> importance but now is a valuable model plant for genetic research. 
> It seems the best approach for botanists is to accept that new botanical
> knowledge often turns out to have applied value although it was not
> immediately obvious. A good example is the discovery of dawn redwood. It
> was a celebrated botanical discovery but also turned out to be an
> excellent landscape tree. Even research with applied goals, such as the
> search for tropical rainforest plants with medicinal value, will also
> extend our knowledge of rainforest flora.  
> Nonscientists are often fascinated by studies of unusual plants such as
> Rafflesia, the world's largest flower, and carnivorous plants, or
> germination of thousand year old lotus seeds. The value of those studies
> is not diminished because people make money by writing about them in
> popular books or producing PBS shows about them. Rather botany gets some
> much needed publicity.  
> Perhaps a way to look at it is that plant science research is
> stockpiling knowledge on a wide range of topics, some of obvious applied
> value, others that may be of applied value in the future. It is all
> valuable because it is knowledge. Scientific advances can change things
> very suddenly. With the gains in genetic engineering, the world's
> herbaria are potentially a rich source of germplasm, yet no one
> envisioned that decades or centuries ago when many of them were started. 
> David Hershey
> dh321 at
> PROFDHW at AOL.COM wrote:
> > 
> > In a message dated 7/18/99 1:10:20 AM, David Hershey writes:
> > 
> > >Botanists need to ask themselves if what they teach is influenced by
> > >this old liberal bias against the applied. In 1919, Liberty Hyde Bailey
> > >said,
> > >
> > >"We yet speak habitually of "pure science" and "applied science" as if
> > >they were realities. Science knows no impurity. Until we outgrow this
> > >old partiality, we are not scientists."
> > 
> > I agree with David (and Liberty) that applied science should not be
> > denigrated but, alas, it is often the pure science that is disparaged in
> > modern society.
> > 
> > If for no other purpose than that of recognizing and validating pure science,
> > the distinction is useful.
> > 
> > Dave Williams
> > Valencia Community College
> > 701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail
> > Orlando, FL 32825
> > 407-299-5000 x2443
> > profdhw at

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