MadSci Network: Science History

Re: who are the scientists involved in the discovery of the cell

Date: Tue Feb 20 18:14:46 2007
Posted By: Art Anderson, Senior Scientist in Immunology and Pathology at USAMRIID
Area of science: Science History
ID: 1169433436.Sh


I normally don't answer questions that appear to be homework but my web pages get lots of hits by people looking for the origins of the biological entity called a cell and for other concepts like the Cell Theory. Therefore, I looked and found what you may want to know but there is so much more that you could learn if you follow the links from the pages I reproduce here. So, be sure to look at the pages at these URLs.

Hans and Zacharias Janssen were Dutch lens grinders, father and son, who produced first compound microscope (2 lenses) which enabled someone to see a cell (but they didn't look).

Robert Hooke (1665) was an English scientist who looked at a thin slice of cork (oak cork) through a compound microscope and observed tiny, hollow, roomlike structures and called these structures 'cells' because they reminded him of the rooms that monks lived in. He only saw the outer walls (cell walls) because cork cells are not alive.

Anton van Leeuwenhoek (around the same time as Hooke, 1676) was a Dutch fabric merchant and amateur scientist. He looked at blood, rainwater, scrapings from teeth through a simple microscope (1 lens). He observed living cells; called some of them 'animalcules.' Some of the small 'animalcules' are now called bacteria, which are single-cell organisms.

Matthias Schleiden (1838) was a German botanist who viewed plant parts under a microscope and discovered that plant parts are made of cells.

Theodor Schwann (1839) was a German zoologist who viewed animal parts under a microscope and discovered that animal parts are also made of cells. This helped propel the idea that cells were common building blocks of normal and possibly abnormal bodies.

Rudolph Virchow (1855), who is my personal hero, was a German physician and pathologist who stated that all living cells come only from other living cells. He included this idea in his concepts of disease, even entitling the textbook of pathology he published in 1858, Cellular Pathology. His lectures set the ground work for studies of the causes of diseases and the science of cell biology.

The cell theory, first developed in 1839 by Schleiden and Schwann, states that all organisms are composed of one or more cells. All cells come from preexisting cells. Vital functions of an organism occur within cells, and all cells contain the hereditary information necessary for regulating cell functions and for transmitting information to the next generation of cells.

The word cell comes from the Latin cellula, a small room. The name was chosen by Robert Hooke when he compared the cork cells he saw to the small rooms monks lived in.

I hope my repeating what these two web pages presented will be helpful to you and to the hundreds of people who look for cells on the web every day.

Here is a cell I study. It is called a lymphocyte and it is important in making you immune to lots of different diseases and antigens. Can you see what I did to make this cell different from any other cell you may have found?

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