ARTICLE: The secret life of plants: Visualizing vegetative movement, 1880–1903

In the journal Early Popular Visual Culture (10:1, 2012):

The secret life of plants: Visualizing vegetative movement, 1880–1903

Oliver Gaycken

Abstract As devices of motion analysis were introduced into botanical research in the late nineteenth century, Charles and Francis Darwin, Wilhelm Pfeffer, and investigators at the Marey Institute used a variety of techniques to visualize plant movements whose slowness rendered them otherwise imperceptible. These ‘time-lapse’ images provided novel visual records that initially were seen as providing evidence of an evolutionary link between the plant and animal kingdoms. While time-lapse plant growth images ultimately could not provide proof that plants are evolutionarily related to animals, time-lapse images did remain useful as a means to demonstrate the remarkable vitality of plants to students and lay audiences, and Oskar Messter’s exhibition of a time-lapse plant growth film was the first of a long tradition of time-lapse plant growth films that circulated in popular culture.

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