The cell is the building block of life for all living organisms. Some of the smallest organisms, such as bacteria, consist of just once cell. Large organisms, such as monkeys, are made up of trillions of cells. Cells are usually too small to observe with the naked eye and require a microscope to study properly. However, the largest cell is an unfertilized ostrich egg, which can weigh over 3 pounds and be observed without a microscope. Even though they are present in all life, cells are a relatively recent discovery.
Who discovered cells?
Pinpointing the exact discovery can be a little difficult, but there is general agreement amongst the scientific community about the timeline of discovery. Robert Hooke is the scientist that is usually credited with the discovery of the cell. He was the first to use the word cell, because the first cells he observed looked similar to monk’s cells. He observed cork cells and published his findings in a book called Micrographia in 1665.
Around the same time as Robert Hooke, a Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, also observed cells with his improved microscope. He is now known as “the father of microbiology” and was the first to observe a live cell under a microscope. He discovered many different types of cells including bacteria, sperm, muscle fibers and protozoa. He was also made the first description of a red blood cell.
It wasn’t until 1839 that Theodor Schwann and Matthias Jakob Schleiden co-founded the principal of cell theory. They declared that “All living things are composed of cells and cell products that are reproduced.”