Rudolph Camerarius

Rudolf Camerarious was born in 1665, in Tubingen, Germany. He was the son of a professor of medicine so with this background he was very interested in science from a very early age. Camerarius is best known for his work on plants in particular discovering the existence of sexes in the anatomy of a plant. He was educated in Germany and achieved his doctorate in 1687 at the age of 22, he became a professor of natural philosophy. When his father died in 1695, Camerarius was appointed as professor of medicine and director of the botanical gardens at Tubingen University.

He was one of the first people to design and work on and experiment in issues around heredity, His work with plants gave rise to the ability to identify parts of plants that dealt with reproduction. He defined that the anther was the male part of the plant and that the pistil was the female part of the plant. He was also able to enlarge on their role during fertilisation. He also identified the importance of the presence of pollen in the reproductive process. He painstakingly recorded his findings in a letter to a colleague.

Camerarius work was not just on one particular type of plant. He also identified plants that produced two types of flowers. Plants that produce two types of flowers are referred to as ‘monoecious plants’, male and female flowers on the same plant. A good example of a monoecious plant is maize. Farmers have benefitted greatly from the input of Camerarius, as work has helped them with their production of maize and to enable farmers to have a greater influence on the yield of their crops. Camerarius also found that if he removed the flower the plant was unable to produce a fertile crop.

Conversely he identified that dioecious plants, are a species of plants whose male and female flowers are on separate plants unlike the monoecious plants who produce both the male and female flower on the same plant. Camerarius found that if he isolated the female (pistillate) dioecious plants from the male (staminate) dioecious plants then the female plant still produced fruit but the fruit did not have any seeds.

The year before his father died (1694) he produced ‘On the Sex of Plants’ (De sexu plantarum), which gave explicit evidence to support his claims for the evidence of the sexuality in plants.