History of the Cell: Discovering the Cell
Initially discovered by Robert Hooke in 1665, the cell has a rich and interesting history that has ultimately given way to many of today’s scientific advancements.
Although they are externally very different, internally, an elephant, a sunflower, and an amoeba are all made of the same building blocks. From the single cells that make up the most basic organisms to the trillions of cells that constitute the complex structure of the human body, each and every living being on Earth is comprised of cells . This idea, part of the cell theory, is one of the central tenants of biology . Cell theory also states that cells are the basic functional unit of living organisms and that all cells come from other cells . Although this knowledge is foundational today, scientists did not always know about cells .
The discovery of the cell would not have been possible if not for advancements to the microscope . Interested in learning more about the microscopic world, scientist Robert Hooke improved the design of the existing compound microscope in 1665. His microscope used three lenses and a stage light, which illuminated and enlarged the specimens. These advancements allowed Hooke to see something wondrous when he placed a piece of cork under the microscope . Hooke detailed his observations of this tiny and previously unseen world in his book, Micrographia . To him, the cork looked as if it was made of tiny pores, which he came to call “cells” because they reminded him of the cells in a monastery.
In observing the cork’s cells, Hooke noted in Micrographia that, “I could exceedingly plainly perceive it to be all perforated and porous, much like a Honey-comb, but that the pores of it were not regular… these pores, or cells,…were indeed the first microscopical pores I ever saw, and perhaps, that were ever seen, for I had not met with any Writer or Person, that had made any mention of them before this…”
Not long after Hooke’s discovery, Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek detected other hidden, minuscule organisms— bacteria and protozoa . It was unsurprising that van Leeuwenhoek would make such a discovery. He was a master microscope maker and perfected the design of the simple microscope (which only had a single lens), enabling it to magnify an object by around two hundred to three hundred times its original size. What van Leeuwenhoek saw with these microscopes was bacteria and protozoa , but he called these tiny creatures “animalcules.”
Van Leeuwenhoek became fascinated. He went on to be the first to observe and describe spermatozoa in 1677. He even took a look at the plaque between his teeth under the microscope. In a letter to the Royal Society, he wrote, "I then most always saw, with great wonder, that in the said matter there were many very little living animalcules, very prettily a-moving.”
In the nineteenth century, biologists began taking a closer look at both animal and plant tissues, perfecting cell theory. Scientists could readily tell that plants were completely made up of cells due to their cell wall. However, this was not so obvious for animal cells, which lack a cell wall. Many scientists believed that animals were made of “globules.”
German scientists Theodore Schwann and Mattias Schleiden studied cells of animals and plants respectively. These scientists identified key differences between the two cell types and put forth the idea that cells were the fundamental units of both plants and animals.
However, Schwann and Schleiden misunderstood how cells grow. Schleiden believed that cells were “seeded” by the nucleus and grew from there. Similarly, Schwann claimed that animal cells “crystalized” from the material between other cells. Eventually, other scientists began to uncover the truth. Another piece of the cell theory puzzle was identified by Rudolf Virchow in 1855, who stated that all cells are generated by existing cells.
At the turn of the century, attention began to shift toward cytogenetics, which aimed to link the study of cells to the study of genetics. In the 1880s, Walter Sutton and Theodor Boveri were responsible for identifying the chromosome as the hub for heredity —forever linking genetics and cytology. Later discoveries further confirmed and solidified the role of the cell in heredity , such as James Watson and Francis Crick’s studies on the structure of DNA .
The discovery of the cell continued to impact science one hundred years later, with the discovery of stem cells , the undifferentiated cells that have yet to develop into more specialized cells . Scientists began deriving embryonic stem cells from mice in the 1980s, and in 1998, James Thomson isolated human embryonic stem cells and developed cell lines. His work was then published in an article in the journal Science . It was later discovered that adult tissues, usually skin, could be reprogrammed into stem cells and then form other cell types. These cells are known as induced pluripotent stem cells . Stem cells are now used to treat many conditions such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
The discovery of the cell has had a far greater impact on science than Hooke could have ever dreamed in 1665. In addition to giving us a fundamental understanding of the building blocks of all living organisms, the discovery of the cell has led to advances in medical technology and treatment. Today, scientists are working on personalized medicine, which would allow us to grow stem cells from our very own cells and then use them to understand disease processes. All of this and more grew from a single observation of the cell in a cork.
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History of Cell Biology
- Cell Biology
The many sub-fields of cell biology focus on various topics, which include how cell energy first emerged in primordial cells, how cells control and release genetic information from the nucleus to the cell cytoplasm (Central Dogma of Molecular Biology ), how cells communicate, send signals to, and receive signals from each other, and how cell cycle occurs. Recently, a novel sub-field has emerged—systems biology. In this field, living systems are analyzed within the context of other systems (Bisceglia 2016). The cell biology history is in chronological order.
During the 17th Century
- 1665 Robert Hooke had successfully invented the microscope. Because of this discovery, Robert Hooke was the first one to have a close look at a cell appears to be. His description of these cells was published in Micrographia . However, the cell walls observed by Hooke gave no indication of the nucleus and other organelles found in most living cells (Rhoads 2007).
- 1674 A live cell was observed by Anton van Leeuwenhoek, the very first successful effort to do such.
During the 18th Century
- There were not much discovery in the field of Cell Biology during this time. It took another hundred years after those first cell observations for the ubiquitous nature of cells to be fully recognized (Rhoads 2007).
During the 19th Century
- At the start of the 19th century: It was first thought that animal tissue could be reduced down to individual globules which have the same sizes and shapes. However, this idea was proven otherwise.
- In the middle of the 19th century , Scientists had accepted the fact that it was simply not possible to view cell structures which measure less than a half of a micrometer with the use of a microscope. But because of the development of the cathode ray tube, they later discovered that electrons could be used to view these structures aside from using light.
20th Century up to the present
- 1977 Frederick Sanger introduced the process of DNA sequencing . The first ever organism to have its genome sequence is a bacteriophage.
- 1998 Hamilton and Baulcombe discovered the siRNA as part of post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) in plants. Check out this article .
Top 12 Cell Biology News in 2017
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- Bisceglia, N. 2016. Cell Biology. Accessed July 22, 2016. www.nature.com/scitable/topic/cell-biology-13906536.
- Innes, Centre John. 2016. Microscopy. Accessed July 22, 2016. https://www.jic.ac.uk/microscopy/intro_EM.html.
- Mikell, Meredith. 2003. Understanding Cell Biology: History & Theories. Accessed July 22, 2016. http://study.com/academy/lesson/understanding-cell-biology-history-theories.html.
- Pray, L. 2009. “Discovery of DNA Structure and Function: Watson and Crick.” Nature Education 100-101.
- Rhoads, Dan. 2007. History of Cell Biology. Accessed July 22, 2016. http://bitesizebio.com/166/history-of-cell-biology/.
- Utah.edu. 2016. PCR. Accessed July 22, 2016. http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/labs/pcr/.
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History Of The Cell
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Name Class Date CELL STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION
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History of Cell Biology
The cell theory, or cell doctrine, states that all organisms are composed of similar units of organization, called cells. The concept was formally articulated in 1839 by Schleiden & Schwann and has remained as the foundation of modern biology. The idea predates other great paradigms of biology including Darwin’s theory of evolution (1859), Mendel’s laws of inheritance (1865), and the establishment of comparative biochemistry (1940).
First Cells Seen in Cork
While the invention of the telescope made the Cosmos accessible to human observation, the microsope opened up smaller worlds, showing what living forms were composed of. The cell was first discovered and named by Robert Hooke in 1665. He remarked that it looked strangely similar to cellula or small rooms which monks inhabited, thus deriving the name. However what Hooke actually saw was the dead cell walls of plant cells (cork) as it appeared under the microscope. Hooke’s description of these cells was published in Micrographia . The cell walls observed by Hooke gave no indication of the nucleus and other organelles found in most living cells . The first man to witness a live cell under a microscope was Anton van Leeuwenhoek , who in 1674 described the algae Spirogyra. Van Leeuwenhoek probably also saw bacteria.
Formulation of the Cell Theory
In 1838, Theodor Schwann and Matthias Schleiden were enjoying after-dinner coffee and talking about their studies on cells. It has been suggested that when Schwann heard Schleiden describe plant cells with nuclei, he was struck by the similarity of these plant cells to cells he had observed in animal tissues. The two scientists went immediately to Schwann’s lab to look at his slides. Schwann published his book on animal and plant cells (Schwann 1839) the next year, a treatise devoid of acknowledgments of anyone else’s contribution, including that of Schleiden (1838). He summarized his observations into three conclusions about cells:
- The cell is the unit of structure, physiology, and organization in living things.
- The cell retains a dual existence as a distinct entity and a building block in the construction of organisms.
- Cells form by free-cell formation, similar to the formation of crystals (spontaneous generation).
We know today that the first two tenets are correct, but the third is clearly wrong. The correct interpretation of cell formation by division was finally promoted by others and formally enunciated in Rudolph Virchow’s powerful dictum, Omnis cellula e cellula ,: “All cells only arise from pre-existing cells”.
Modern Cell Theory
- All known living things are made up of cells.
- The cell is structural & functional unit of all living things.
- All cells come from pre-existing cells by division. (Spontaneous Generation does not occur).
- Cells contains hereditary information which is passed from cell to cell during cell division.
- All cells are basically the same in chemical composition.
- All energy flow (metabolism & biochemistry) of life occurs within cells.
As with the rapid growth of molecular biology in the mid-20th century , cell biology research exploded in the 1950’s. It became possible to maintain, grow, and manipulate cells outside of living organisms . The first continuous cell line to be so cultured was in 1951 by George Otto Gey and coworkers, derived from cervical cancer cells taken from Henrietta Lacks, who died from her cancer in 1951. The cell line, which was eventually referred to as HeLa cells , have been the watershed in studying cell biology in the way that the structure of DNA was the significant breakthrough of molecular biology.
In an avalanche of progress in the study of cells, the coming decade included the characterization of the minimal media requirements for cells and development of sterile cell culture techniques. It was also aided by the prior advances in electron microscopy , and later advances such as the development of transfection methods, the discovery of green fluorescent protein in jellyfish, and discovery of small interfering RNA (siRNA), among others.
The study of the structure and function of cells continues today, in a branch of biology known as cytology. Advances in equipment, including cytology microscopes and reagents, have allowed this field to progress, particularly in the clinical setting.
1595 – Jansen credited with 1st compound microscope 1655 – Hooke described ‘cells’ in cork. 1674 – Leeuwenhoek discovered protozoa. He saw bacteria some 9 years later. 1833 – Brown descibed the cell nucleus in cells of the orchid. 1838 – Schleiden and Schwann proposed cell theory. 1840 – Albrecht von Roelliker realized that sperm cells and egg cells are also cells. 1856 – N. Pringsheim observed how a sperm cell penetrated an egg cell. 1858 – Rudolf Virchow (physician, pathologist and anthropologist) expounds his famous conclusion: omnis cellula e cellula , that is cells develop only from existing cells [cells come from preexisting cells] 1857 – Kolliker described mitochondria. 1879 – Flemming described chromosome behavior during mitosis. 1883 – Germ cells are haploid, chromosome theory of heredity. 1898 – Golgi described the golgi apparatus. 1938 – Behrens used differential centrifugation to separate nuclei from cytoplasm. 1939 – Siemens produced the first commercial transmission electron microscope. 1952 – Gey and coworkers established a continuous human cell line. 1955 – Eagle systematically defined the nutritional needs of animal cells in culture. 1957 – Meselson, Stahl and Vinograd developed density gradient centrifugation in cesium chloride solutions for separating nucleic acids. 1965 – Ham introduced a defined serum-free medium. Cambridge Instruments produced the first commercial scanning electron microscope. 1976 – Sato and colleagues publish papers showing that different cell lines require different mixtures of hormones and growth factors in serum-free media. 1981 – Transgenic mice and fruit flies are produced. Mouse embryonic stem cell line established. 1995 – Tsien identifies mutant of GFP with enhanced spectral properties 1998 – Mice are cloned from somatic cells. 1999 – Hamilton and Baulcombe discover siRNA as part of post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) in plants
- Landmark Papers in Cell Biology : Selected Research Articles Celebrating Forty Years of The American Society for Cell Biology. 2000. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
- Mazzarello P. A unifying concept: the history of cell theory. Nat Cell Biol. 1999. 1(1):E13-5.
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SCIENTISTS IN THE HISTORY OF CELL BIOLOGY
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The wacky history of cell theory - lauren royal-woods.
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- 1. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Which of the following is NOT a cell theory. All non-living things are made of cells All cells come from pre-existing cells Cells are the basic unit of structure and function of all living things
- 2. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Animal and Plant cells are both this type of cell. Eukaryote Prokaryote
- 3. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Bacteria cells are this type of cell. Eukaryote Prokaryote
- 4. Multiple-choice 2 minutes 1 pt Viruses are infectious particles made of nucleic acid and protein. Based on the cell theory, how would viruses be described today? Viruses are living because they are made of cells. Viruses are non-living because they are not multicellular Viruses are non-living because they are not made of cells. Viruses are living because they are produced from existing cells.
- 5. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Lysosomes... store water and sugar make energy controls the cell cleans up waste
- 6. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Golgi apparatus... creates energy for the cell cleans up waste sorts and packages molecules provide protection
- 7. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Chloroplast... converts sunlight into a usable form of energy provides protection cleans up waste controls cell functions
- 8. Multiple-choice 2 minutes 1 pt List cell organization from largest to smallest. Organelle → Cell →Tissue → Organ → Organ System Organelle → Organ System → Cell →Tissue → Organ Organelle → Cell → Organ System→Tissue → Organ
- 9. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Eukaryotic cells... do not have a nucleus have a nucleus and membrane bound organelles are bacteria
- 10. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Prokaryotic cells... have a nuclues do not have a nucleus are plants and animals
- 11. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Prokaryotic cells... have a nuclues do not have a nucleus are plants and animals
- 12. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Where is DNA located? nucleus cytoplasm
- 13. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt a membrane bound sac that contains materials involved in cellular transport cell flagellum vesicle mitochondria
- 14. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt a cellular structure on which proteins are synthesized endoplasmic reticulum cytoplasm ribosome mitochondria
- 15. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt What organelle surrounds and supports plant cells? Cell Membrane Cell Wall Nucleus Golgi COmplex
- 16. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt In what organelle is the genetic material found inside? Endoplasmic Reticulum Golgi Complex Nucleolus Nucleus
- 17. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt What does "powerhouse" of the cell mean? it give the cell greater speed it allows the cell to grow larger it is the energy center it is the "tough" part of the cell
- 18. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt What organelle stores waste and water in both plant and animal cells? Lysosomes Golgi Complex Vacuoles Endoplasmic Reticulum
- 19. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt What does "powerhouse" of the cell mean? it give the cell greater speed it allows the cell to grow larger it is the energy center it is the "tough" part of the cell
- 20. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Which organelle is known as Fed Ex of the cell because it packages and transport materials? Vacuole Mitochondria Endoplasmic Recticulum Golgi Apparatus
- 21. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt composed of a bi-layer of phospholipids with hydrophilic heads facing the internal and external environments, hydrophobic tails facing each other and structural proteins. semi permeable membrane that surrounds the cell and regulates what passes into or out of the cell. mitochondria ribosomes plasma membrane cytoplasm
- 22. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt site of protein synthesis mitochondria ribosomes cytoplasm endoplasmic reticulum
- 23. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt stores calcium, detoxifies drugs and participates in carbohydrate metabolism? mitochondria ribosomes cytoplasm endoplasmic reticulum
- 24. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt composed of 70-80% water with organic molecules held in colloidal suspension. mitochondria ribosomes cytoplasm plasma membrane
- 25. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt packages ribosomal subunits? cell wall nucleolus chromosomes nuclear membrane
- 26. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Semi-permeable membrane that separates the nucleus from the rest of the cell cell wall chromosomes nuclear membrane nucleolus
- 27. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Which cell would be best for studying lysosomes? muscle cell nerve cell leaf cell of a plant phagocytic white blood cell
- 28. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt What is the most likely pathway taken by a newly synthesized protein that will be secreted by a cell? ER, golgi, nucleus Golgi, ER, lysosome nucleus, ER, Golgi ER, golgi, vesicles that fuse with plasma membrane
- 29. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Which of the following is present in prokaryotic cell? mitochondria ribosome nuclear envelope ER
- 30. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Which structure-function pair is mismatched? nucleolus: production of ribosomal subunits lysosome: Intracellular digestion ribosome; protein synthesis microtubule; muscle contraction
- 31. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Which structure-function pair is mismatched? nucleolus: production of ribosomal subunits lysosome: Intracellular digestion ribosome; protein synthesis microtubule; muscle contraction
- 32. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Which structure is common to plant and animal cells? chloroplast cell wall central vacuole mitochondria
- 33. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt In a plant cell, DNA may be found only in the nucleus nucleus and mitochondria nucleus and choloroplast nucleus, mitochondria, chloroplasts
- 34. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt which type of organelle is found in plant cells but not in animal cells? ribsomes mitochondria nuceli plastids
- 35. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Which organelle often takes up much of the volume of a plant cell? lysosome vacuole mitochondrion golgi apparatus
- 36. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Hydrolytic enzymes must be segregated and packaged to prevent general destruction of cellular components. which of the following organelles contains these HYDROLYTIC ENZYMES in ANIMAL CELLS? chloroplast lysosome peroxisome central vacuole
- 37. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Which structure is the site of the synthesis of proteins that may be exported from the cell? Rough ER lysosomes golgi vesicles free cytoplasmic ribosomes
- 38. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt which type of organelle or structure is primarily involved in the synthesis of oils, phospholipids, and steroids? ribosomes lysosome smooth ER mitochondria
- 39. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt A cell with a predominance of FREE ribosomes is most likely producing primarily proteins for secretion producing primarily cytoplasmic proteins constructing an extensive cell wall or extracellular matrix digesting large food particles
- 40. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Large numbers of ribosomes are present in cells that specialize in producing which of the following molecules? Lipids Nucleic acids Proteins Cellulose
- 41. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt Which organelle or structure is absent in plant cells? mitochondria Golgi Vesicles microtubules Centrosomes
- 42. Multiple-choice 1 minute 1 pt All of the following are part of a prokaryotic cell except DNA & RIBOSOMES CELL WALL PLASMA MEMBRANE ENDOPLASMIC RETICULUM
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