The Cell Theory

Although Hooke and Leeuwenhoek were the first to report observing cells, the importance of this observation was not realized until about 150 years later. At this time, biologists began to organize information about cells into a unified understanding. In 1838, the German botanist Matthias Schleiden concluded that all plants were composed of cells. The next year, the German zoologist Theodor Schwann concluded the same thing for animals. And finally, in his study of human diseases, the German physician Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902) noted that all cells come from other cells. These three observations were combined to form a basic theory about the cellular nature of life. The cell theory has three essential parts, which are summarized in Table 4-1.

TABLE 4-1 The Cell Theory

All living organisms are composed of one or more cells.

Cells are the basic units of structure and function in an organism.

Cells come only from the reproduction of existing cells.

Timeline-History of Cell Biology

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