Prescott, David M. Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado.
Last reviewed:April 2018
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- Cell heredity
- Types of organisms
- Modern research
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The study of the activities, functions, properties, and structures of cells. Cell biology focuses on the notion that the cell is the fundamental unit of life. Cells were discovered in the middle of the seventeenth century after the microscope was invented. In the following two centuries, with steadily improved microscopes, cells were studied in a wide variety of plants, animals, and microorganisms, leading to the discovery of the cell nucleus and several other major cell structures or organelles (see illustration). By the 1830s, biologists recognized that all organisms are composed of cells, a realization that is now known as the cell doctrine or cell theory. This theory, as initially proposed by Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann, constitutes the first major tenet upon which the contemporary science of cell biology is founded. By the late 1800s, biologists had established that cells do not arise de novo, but come into being by cell division, that is, division of a preexisting cell into two daughter cells. This is the second major tenet upon which the modern study of cells is based. See also: Cell (biology); Cell division; Cell nucleus; Cell organization; Microscope
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