History of the word photosynthesis and evolution of its definition

  title={History of the word photosynthesis and evolution of its definition},
  author={Howard Gest},
  journal={Photosynthesis Research},
  • H. Gest
  • Published 2004
  • Environmental Science
  • Photosynthesis Research
In 1893, Charles Barnes (1858–1910) proposed that the biological process for ‘synthesis of complex carbon compounds out of carbonic acid, in the presence of chlorophyll, under the influence of light’ should be designated as either ‘photosyntax’ or ‘photosynthesis.’ He preferred the word ‘photosyntax,’ but ‘photosynthesis’ came into common usage as the term of choice. Later discovery of anoxygenic photosynthetic bacteria and photophosphorylation necessitated redefinition of the term. This essay… 

Discoveries in Oxygenic Photosynthesis (1727–2003): A Perspective

This history begins with the observation of the English clergyman Stephen Hales that plants derive nourishment from the air and includes the definitive experiments in the 1960–1965 period establishing the two-photosystem and two-light reaction scheme of oxygenic photosynthesis.

The Teaching of Photosynthesis in Secondary School: A History of the Science Approach

In this article we present a synthesis of the research affecting pupils' conceptions of photosynthesis and plant nutrition. The main false conceptions of the pupils identified in this literature

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It is shown that a widely used eddy covariance CO2 flux partitioning approach yields estimates which are quantitatively closer to the definition of true photosynthesis despite aiming at estimating apparent photosynthesis.

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List of biography and history published mostly in Photosynthesis Research, 1988–2008

As an outgoing Editor of the Historical Corner of Photosynthesis Research, I present here the following list of papers of historical interest for the benefit of all. The first paper I published was:

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Evidence for the Ubiquity of Mixotrophic Bacteria in the Upper Ocean: Implications and Consequences

  • A. Eiler
  • Environmental Science
    Applied and Environmental Microbiology
  • 2006
The observations suggest that mixotrophic bacteria may be major players in photo-, hetero-, auto- and organotrophic processes in the upper ocean, which may demand a thorough revision of understanding of how microorganisms contribute to biogeochemical cycles in the marine environment.

MINIREVIEW Evidence for the Ubiquity of Mixotrophic Bacteria in the Upper Ocean: Implications and Consequences (cid:1)

Microorganisms are usually grouped into those relying solely on harvesting light (phototrophy) or those relying solely on the assimilation of organic or inorganic compounds (chemotrophy) to meet



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The importance of formulating a more precise definition of photosynthesis is focused on, and recognition of the existence of a class of ‘quasi-photosynthetic’ bacterial species whose bioenergetic patterns require further analysis is forced.

The Physiology of Plants, a Treatise upon the Metabolism and Sources of Energy in Plants

The Physiology of Plants, a Treatise upon the Metabolism and Sources of Energy in Plants is welcomed by those familiar with its value in its original form, who will find in it valuable additions, interpolated in brackets and in an appendix, which take account of the recent developments of the science.

Sun-beams, cucumbers, and purple bacteria

  • H. Gest
  • Environmental Science
    Photosynthesis Research
  • 2004
Rapid progress in molecular biological and genetic studies of the membrane-bound reaction centers of purple bacteria indicate that current investigations are on the verge of revealing the detailed mechanisms by which energy conversion occurs in the reaction center of all photosynthetic organisms.

Experimental Researches in Vegetable Assimilation and Respiration. IV.--A Quantitative Study of Carbon-Dioxide Assimilation and Leaf-Temperature in Natural Illumination

It has been made evident by the experiments recently published by one of us, that the amount of carbon-dioxide assimilation which a leaf is actually performing, or is capable of performing, is

Evolution of Knowledge Encapsulated in Scientific Definitions

  • H. Gest
  • Art
    Perspectives in biology and medicine
  • 2001
This essay examines the changing history of two definitions of special importance in the biological sciences as the essence of a scientific phenomenon or entity becomes elucidated over the course of many decades, its definition changes accordingly.

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  • T. Engelmann
  • Archiv für die gesamte Physiologie des Menschen und der Tiere
  • 2005
Im vergangenen Winter fand ich im Wasser des am physiologischen Laboratorium vorbeifliessenden Rheinarms eine Bakterienform, dig durch ihr hSehst eigenthttmliches Verhalten zum LiGht a]sbald meine

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The constant tendency of biological science is to minimize the difference between the physiological processes of plants and animals, and tQ recognize, under the varying forms, a remarkable functional


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