Botany began with early man trying to understand and find uses for plants and vegetation around him. During the Middle Ages, the study of herbs and plants grew considerably - into the thorough scientific field it is today.
The first people to specialize in the study of botany were primitive medicine men and witch doctors. They had to know the plants that could kill or cure people. And botany was closely linked with medicine for hundreds of years.
In the sixteenth century, people began to observe plants and write books about their observations. These writers were the "fathers" of modern botany. In the nineteenth century, the work of an English scientist, Charles Darwin, helped botanists gain a better understanding of how plants, as well as animals, evolved from simpler ancestors. His work led botanists to set up special branches of botany.
One of these branches is "plant anatomy", which has to do with the structure of plants and how they might be related. Experiments on plant heredity were performed to find out how various species came to be and how they could be improved. This study is called "genetics".
"Ecology", another branch of botany, deals with studies of the distribution of plants throughout the world, to find out why certain species grow in certain places. "Palaeobotany", another branch, works out plant evolution from the evidence of fossil remains.
Other branches of botany include "plant physiology", which studies the way plants breathe and make food, and "plant pathology", which is concerned with the study of plant diseases.