Table of Contents
- Interactive Timeline
- Early History (Pre-history to 500 BCE)
- Beginnings of Botany (500 BCE to 1000 CE)
- Middle Ages (1000 CE to 1400 CE)
- The Renaissance (1400 CE to 1700 CE)
- Age of Enlightenment (1700 CE to 1800 CE)
- Victorian Era (1800 CE to 1900 CE)
- World Wars (1900 CE to 1950 CE)
- Contemporary (1950 CE to Now)
From early civilizations to the dawn of philosophy…
Use of plants for food purposes is known as agriculture. The advent of farming in human history signalled the start of civilization as we know it around 6000 BCE in what is referred to as the “Neolithic Revolution.” (1)
The use of medicinal plants and herbs us typically referred to as “herbalism.” As people began to learn more about plants, herbalism became part of botany and medicine.
Hydroponics is largely the result of combining the scientific knowledge gleaned from botany and herbalism with the practical methods employed in agriculture.
Chewing the bark of a willow tree provides effects similar to aspirin.
Beginnings of Botany
500 BCE to 1000 CE
Initial attempts at understanding plants and how to control them…
Theophrastus’ work was the biggest contribution to botanical knowledge for centuries, until the Middle Ages (7). His most famous works were Enquiry into Plants (also known as Historia Plantarum) and On the Causes of Plants.
His works are often divided into several books that make up the whole of his work. Enquiry into Plants is divided into three books, and is the most relevant to hydroponics.
- The first book attempted to categorize plants based on their properties. It also describes simple plant anatomy.
- The second book described plants changing into other species of plants if they are left alone. This is a typical error of Greek philosophers, who made assumptions about events occurring because they didn’t observe a change.
- The third book described all wild trees growing either from seeds or from roots. This was in direct opposition to the prevailing theory at the time, known as spontaneous generation. Spontaneous generation states that life can come from nothing.
- The last 6 books discuss specific plants and their properties and uses.
While his works exhibited the errors typical of Greek philosophers, Theophrastus brought attention to the importance of roots to a plant.
1000 CE to 1400 CE
While the Middle Ages weren’t known for their advanced science, there were advancements…
While he was not the first European to visit China, he was the first to document his trip there and what he experienced.
In his writings, he describes “Chinese floating gardens,” but it is not entirely clear what this meant. It is likely this is a misunderstanding of Chinese farming methods or gardening techniques.
- Rice paddies and other farms were regularly flooded, and Marco Polo may not have known this, thus considering it a floating garden.
- Traditional Chinese gardens include water features close to the roots of plants. Marco Polo may have seen this as a floating garden.
1400 CE to 1700 CE
Logic and reason take root…
These early active greenhouses featured a heating system built underneath the greenhouse itself in order to continue growing during the cold winter months.
An illustration of an Ondol, a traditional Korean form of underfloor heating.
Age of Enlightenment
1700 CE to 1800 CE
The scientific method is developed and employed, leading to great advances…
Priestly also explored other gases, with an unusual tendency to call them “airs” which he described in his work Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air. (13) Part of the reasoning for calling gases airs, contrary to the prior discoveries of Jean Baptist van Helmont, was that he subscribed to a different theory called “Phlogiston theory.” The outdated theory proposed that a combustible “phlogiston” is contained within anything that is combustible, and released upon combustion.
In his works, he describes “airs” such as:
1800 CE to 1900 CE
Peace, prosperity, and great wealth allow for further advancement…
Without this knowledge, growing plants hydroponically would be significantly more difficult. Growing hydroponically often requires more controlled conditions than growing outdoors in the soil.
1900 CE to 1950 CE
Necessity is the mother of invention…
Dr. Gericke’s book. If so inclined, it is available on Amazon.
1950 CE to Today
What now? Exploring recent developments since the 50s.
- Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
- Hydroponic Food Production
- Walt Disney's EPCOT Center Opens
- NASA and the ESA
Nutrient Film technique relies on a constant flow of water and nutrient solution, and is therefore dependent on electricity, but it is also relatively simple to automate without computer controls. It is very sensitive to disruptions in water and nutrient flow, and plants downstream get fewer nutrients, but this technique also for much more active monitoring and control over the growing process, a trend we see today in indoor cannabis cultivation.
Want to read more about subjects similar to those touched upon in this article? Check out these articles:
Do you have any questions or comments?
Feel free to post below!
About the Author
Hunter Wilson is a community builder with Growers Network. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 2011 with a Masters in Teaching and in 2007 with a Bachelors in Biology.