The Cell Theory: An Introduction and Its Players

Cell Theory: Cell Theory is a basic principle in biology that defines the properties and functions of cells, the simplest living device. This body of knowledge has developed over the years, with contributions from many different people and advances made by scientists, notably with the invention of the microscope.

Cell Theory: Definition And Basics


Cell Theory states that:

Every life form is made of 1 or more cells.

Cells are the smallest structural and functional unit of living things.

Every cell comes from only pre-existing cells.

Main Contributors to the Cell Theory

1. Robert Hooke (1635-1703): Credited with creating the term cell after examining cork under a microscope in 1665. He walked past the austere, little box-like compartments that reminded him of a circus.

2. Anton van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723): Leeuwenhoek developed an improved microscope and was the first to describe single-celled organisms, which he called "animalcules," now known as microorganisms.

3. 1838 - Matthias Schleiden - all plants are made of cells (botanist)

4. Theodor Schwann (1810-1882): a zoologist, unrelated to Schleiden, added to the concept by concluding, in 1839, that all living organisms consisted of cells.

5. Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902): Virchow proposed in 1855 that all cells come from other cells "Omnis cellula e cellula" and this reinforced the 3rd tenet of the cell theory.

Developing Timeline Timeline Cell Theory

1665: Cork Cells Discovered by Robert Hooke

1674 Anton van Leeuwenhoek sees living cells

The Background to Modern Cell Theory:1838-39: Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann propose that all plants and animals are made of cells.

1855: Rudolf Virchow, the founder of this theory, writes "Every cell arises from a pre-existing cell."

Experiments and Advancements

Improvements in Microscopes:

One of the key advancements in cell theory was the development and improvement of the microscope. The first microscopes had resolutions that could not show cells with clarity and as the technology advanced improved images of the cells were revealed. This resulted in the identification of organelles and a better grasp of how cells divide and how they function.

Key Experiments:

Hooke and Leeuwenhoek provided the first recorded observations of cells (~(5)(5)).

Systematic investigations on the cellular make-up of plant and animal tissues were first carried out by by Schleiden and Schwann.

Virchow used it to show how cells reproduce themselves in cell division and to show that cells cannot come from nothing but from pre-existing cells.

Importance of Cell Theory

The cell theory is central to our understanding of biological processes, such as growth, development, and disease, but we still have much to learn about the best way to treat the 37 trillion cells in our body. It made clear that the examination of cells is the key to understanding the diversity of life and the reasons behind why the properties of life exist in the form of generation through generation.


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