This is a scientific detective story with heroes and heroines following clues and finding answers. Thompson brings to life the eccentrics, explorers, amateurs, and highly dedicated professionals who have accumulated our knowledge. Some are well known, such as Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel; others, like the Russian geneticist Nikolai Vavilov, are less so. The seeds also have a story and appear to have personalities, ambitions, and “stratagems” of their own.
The book concludes with a chapter by Stephen Harris on current debates about genetically modified crops, seed conservation, and plant ownership in the contemporary world.
Peter Thompson, for many years the Head of Plant Physiology at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a pioneer in the conservation of threatened plant species, laid the foundations for the Millennium Seed Bank.
Stephen Harris is Druce Curator of the Oxford University Herbaria and a Fellow of Green Templeton College.