We were taught in 7th-grade biology that cells are the basic building blocks of all life forms that have ever existed. But where did this concept come from? The answer is the Schleiden & Schwann cell theory. It is as important to biology as Newton’s laws of motion are to physics. So, the question arises, what contribution did Matthias Schleiden make to the cell theory? In this article, let’s also dig into the details of the contribution of Theodor Schwann in cell theory.
1. Cell Theory formulated in 1839 is Credited to?
Three scientists—Theodor Schwann, Matthias Jakob Schleiden, and Rudolf Virchow—are credited with creating the cell theory in 1839. Despite Theodor Schwann’s initial attempt to seize the lion’s share of the credit for establishing the cell theory, the other two scientists’ contributions were honored throughout history equally. (See Why it is Not Possible to Change Hereditary Conditions?)
2. What is Schleiden & Schwann Cell Theory?
Let me tell you a little story. Theodor Schwann and Matthias Schleiden were sipping coffee after supper in 1838 while talking about their cell research. It has been said that Schwann was astounded by how closely these plant cells resembled the cells he had seen in animal tissues when he heard Schleiden characterize plant cells with nuclei. To view Schwann’s slides, the two researchers hurried to his lab immediately. So, what contribution did Matthias Schleiden make to the cell theory? The next year, Schwann released his dissertation on animal and plant cells (Schwann 1839), in which he did not mention Schleiden’s or anybody else’s contributions (1838). He distilled his findings regarding cells into three generalizations:
- The cell is the unit of organization, physiology, and structure of living things.
- The cell continues to exist both independently as a separate entity and as a component of organisms.
- Similar to how crystals form, cells develop through the process of free-cell formation (spontaneous generation).
This is the Schleiden & Schwann cell theory, the outdated version that Rudolf Virchow rectified; hence, the accurate cell theory was developed. (See What are the Three Parts of Cell Theory?)
3. What Contribution did Matthias Schleiden make to the Cell Theory?
A German botanist, Matthias Jacob Schleiden, cofounded the cell theory with Theodor Schwann. Exactly, what contribution did Matthias Schleiden make to the cell theory in plants and animals? In 1838, Schleiden identified the cell as the basic unit of plant structure, while Schwann identified the cell as the basic unit of animal structure a year later. (See Where are Ribosomes in a Plant Cell?)
4. How did Matthias Schleiden discover the Cell Theory?
Since you are aware of what contribution did Matthias Schleiden make to the cell theory, you might ask how? Basically, the German botanist Matthias Schleiden concluded that a single cell gave rise to an embryonic plant in 1838 and that all plant tissues are made up of cells. According to him, the cell is the fundamental unit of all plant matter. In this remark, Schleiden made the first broad generalizations about cells. Must see Does a Sunflower have Cells?
After studying plants under a microscope, Schleiden concluded that they were composed of identifiable units or cells. He believed that the generation of new cells, which he hypothesized originated from the nucleus of old cells, caused plant development. He was incorrect regarding the nucleus’ function in mitosis, but his idea that a plant’s cell is its basic structural unit changed the focus of research to the activities that occur inside a live cell.
5. What is the Contribution of Theodor Schwann in Cell Theory?
After learning what contribution did Matthias Schleiden make to the cell theory, let’s look at the contribution of Theodor Schwann in cell theory. Theodor Schwann, a German scientist, came to the same conclusion regarding animal tissue being made up of cells in 1839, putting an end to the theories that plants and animals had significant structural differences. Schwann outlined the cellular composition of animal cartilage. He compiled observations into a theory that went as follows:
- All creatures are made up of one or more cells, and cells are part of organisms.
- All creatures have cells as their fundamental structural unit, and both plants and animals are made up of different combinations of these structures.
In other words, the simplest form of life is the cell. The most significant for the advancement of biology was this second generalization about cells. This came to be known as the cell theory in the initial days, but with time, Matthias Schleiden was acknowledged equally in the development of this theory. (See Why are The Cells Generally of a Small Size?)
6. What is Rudolf Virchow Contribution to Cell Theory?
As per the cell theory of Theodor Schwann, the third postulate is used to state that cells came from spontaneous growth. The first two tenets are true, as far as we know, but the third is false. The German biologist, doctor, pathologist, and anthropologist Rudolf Virchow extended the cell theory by correcting the third component in 1855. He claimed that all cells are only generated from already existing cells.
Virchow was the first to show that the cell hypothesis holds for both healthy and sick tissue. The healthy cells of normal tissue are where affected cells originate. Virchow’s famous pronouncement, Omnis cellula e cellula, which means all cells only come from pre-existing cells, was the last to state the accurate understanding of cell creation by division explicitly. However, he disapproved of the germ hypothesis of Louis Pasteur. (See What does the Word Queue describe in Cell Biology?)
7. What did Louis Pasteur contribute to the Cell Theory?
While learning what contribution did Matthias Schleiden make to the cell theory, you cannot forget the contribution of Louis Pasteur. Today, it is widely acknowledged that Louis Pasteur’s experiments throughout the 19th century effectively disproved spontaneous generation. A discredited line of thinking on the typical production of living creatures without derivation from related species is known as spontaneous generation. Usually, the concept was that certain creatures, like fleas, might develop from inanimate substances, like dust, or maggots might potentially develop from decomposed flesh.
The famous experiment which made Pasteur come up with such a conclusion is explained briefly. Pasteur never saw a food source putrefy because he sterilized it and kept it sealed off from the outside world. Pasteur noticed the food supply was putrefied after exposure to the atmosphere. This made it clear that the elements required to produce life do not appear by accident. Through Louis Pasteur’s pasteurization experiment, we can see that certain airborne particles cause liquids to deteriorate, not the air itself. The results of these investigations strongly supported the germ hypothesis of illness. (See How many Types of Cells are There in The Human Body?)
8. How did Robert Brown contribute to the Cell Theory?Photo by Fayette Reynolds M.S. from Pexels
The nucleus was discovered by Robert Brown, and his understanding of its function contributed to the development of the cell hypothesis, which holds that all living things are made of cells and that cells originate from already existing cells. The second half of the cell theory was confirmed in part by Brown’s discovery.
He discovered what he called the nucleus of the cell in the cells of orchids as well as many other plants in 1931 while studying the fertilization processes of plants in the Orchidaceae and Asclepiadaceae families. In 1931, Robert Brown discovered the nucleus of the cell, which explains how DNA material from parent cells is passed on to daughter cells during cell division. This made the previously stated postulate about spontaneous growth obsolete. (See Why is DNA Replication Critical to the Survival of Organisms?)
9. How has the Cell Theory changed over Time?
To understand the true evolution of the cell theory, let’s go back to the 1600s and start with the first person like what contribution did Matthias Schleiden make to the cell theory and many others to name box-like structures under microscopes as cells:
- An English scientist, Robert Hooke, examined a small slice of cork under his microscope in 1665. He called them cells because the cork appeared to be made up of small blank boxes.
- Anton Van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch scientist who developed an extremely powerful single-lens microscope, examined pond water in 1673. He found what he called animalcules, or minute creatures (protists), in pond scum. He also found germs when looking at the crud he had scraped from his teeth.
- German botanist Matthias Schleiden discovered that plants were made up of cells in 1838.
- German physiologist and zoologist Theodor Schwann determined that animals are composed of cells and proposed the first hypothesis of the cell theory in 1839. According to him, the cell is the building block of all living organisms on earth.
- Rudolph Virchow, a doctor, stated that all cells come from pre-existing cells, contradicting Schwann’s third postulate of the cell theory in 1858.
- In 1861, Louis Pasteur proposed his study, which proved that cells can only give birth to more cells and that they cannot occur spontaneously.
- As supported by Robert Brown’s discovery of the cell nucleus, it became clear where and how cells carry genetic material and reproduce.
- All energy flow occurs inside the cell, according to the fourth contemporary cell theory concept. All cells require energy to carry out their unique tasks. The cell’s internal organelles support the biochemical processes referred to as the metabolism. Molecules’ chemical connections are destroyed during cell metabolism, generating energy. The cells absorb this energy and use it for crucial processes.
- Cells contain genetic material that is transmitted to daughter cells during cell division, according to the fifth principle of contemporary cell theory. The concept explains how DNA is necessary for cells to proliferate and how it is passed on between cells during cell division.
10. State the Modern Cell TheoryPhoto by Katerina Holmes from Pexels
As you have gathered enough understanding of what contribution did Matthias Schleiden make to the cell theory, now let us learn about the modern cell theory. Modern cell theory states the following:
- All living things’ bodies are composed of cells and the byproducts of those cells.
- Cells are the basic structural units found in the bodies of living things. Each cell is composed of a protoplasmic mass with a nucleus, organelles, and an encasing membrane.
- Living creatures have functional units called cells, and the activities of an organism are made up of the sum of all of its cells’ activities.
- Because cells carry out all of life’s functions, life can only exist in cells.
- It is through the expansion and division of cells that an organism develops.
- Cells are where genes are expressed and stored.
- A live cell is how life is passed from one generation to the next.
- Through division, pre-existing cells give rise to new cells. The amount and quality of genetic information in every new cell are identical to those in the parent cell.
- Cells are generally capable of freely dividing and multiplying unless they have developed serious specialization.
We hope this article helped you acquire in-depth knowledge about what contribution did Matthias Schleiden make to the cell theory. We have also discussed the contribution of Theodor Schwann in cell theory, as well as other scientists like Louis Pasteur, Rudolf Virchow, and Robert Brown. (Also read What is a Paramecium Feeding Process?)