|MadSci Network: Science History|
The first person to name cells was Robert Hooke, who lived from 1635-1703. He was a mathematician and physicist who also happened to be the first person to make a compound microscope--a microscope with more than one lens to magnify things. He put thin slices of cork under the microscope and saw these sorts of squares. He thought these squares looked a lot like the rooms which monks stayed in, which were also called cells (also just like in a jail). Importantly, he also put other slices of plants, like onions, under the microscope and saw the same sort of square pattern--showing that the pattern wasn't just unique to cork. In reality, what this guy was seeing wasn't really 'cells' but the cell wall. It took other techniques to be able to see cell membranes, the sort of 'bag' which keeps the contents of a cell inside the cell. All cells are surrounded by cell membranes, and only some, like plants also have a cell wall. The guy who developed a way to stain cell membranes is called Camillo Golgi, and he lived in the early part of the 20th century. Golgi is famous for developing ways to study nerve cells, as well as discovering what we now call the Golgi body inside the cell.
Here are some websites which talk about Robert Hooke, Camillo Golgi, cells, and cool biology websites:
Camillo Golgi http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/8/0,5716,38038+1+37291,00.html?kw=
Cell Stuff http://web.mit.edu/esgbio/www/cb/org/animal.gif
Cool Biology sites http://www.biointeractive.org/
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Science History.