Monday, October 10, 2011

the cell theory

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Infectious diseases were familiar in early periods and it was considered that they spread by contact, even though no one knew exactly how this happened. Epidemics occurred and frequently spread � the Black Death in 14th century Europe is a well-known example � and this perpetuated the widespread belief in many societies that they were due to paranormal causes. Undeniably epidemics were often considered to be divine punishments. The first definite suggestion of a scientific cause came from Hierinymous Fracastorol who thought that diseases were transmitted by “seeds of infection” either by contact, indirect contact or by transmission from a distance. These ‘seeds’, were thought to have faculty of multiplying and propagating rapidly.

Long before, in the hazy unrecorded past, someone picked up a piece of transparent crystal thicker in the middle than at the edges, looked through it, and discovered that it made things appear larger. Someone also found that such a crystal would focus the suns rays and set fire to a piece of parchment or cloth. Magnifiers and “burning glasses” are mentioned in the first century A.D., but apparently they were not used until the invention of spectacles, toward the end of the 1th Century. They were named lenses because they are shaped like the seed of a lentil.

The Dutch scientist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek around 1660 invented the earliest microscope. It contained a single round glass lens about the size of a raindrop. Van Leeuwenhoek realized that a glass sphere has a maximum possible curvature. As a result, a spherical lens has the maximum magnification of about 00 times. The invention of this microscope opened a whole new world. For the first time, people could see pollen grains from flowers, bacteria and sperm from male animals.

Although millions of microscopic examinations have confirmed this observation, it all began with the curiosity of Robert Hooke. He published his first meticulously detailed descriptions of cells in one of the most significant science books ever written. His most commonly known observations took place with a rather unlikely material � a slice of cork; but with this the science of cells was born. What he saw reminded him of the small rooms in which monks lived, the cells of monastery. In fact he was observing an interlocking arrangement of plant cell walls. All of their contents had long since died in boxed solitary confinement. The empty boxes that he saw had once held active living materials. There was no suggestion in Hooke’s report that discovery would be of great biological importance � he did not realize that he had seen the building blocks of life itself.

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Around 1660 Antoni van Leeuwenhoek designed and built the first microscope. The microscope had a spike and a glass lens on a flat sheet. He stuck the object he wanted to view on the spike and turned the screw to bring the object opposite the lens. Then he turned the microscope over and looked through the lens. Its appearance was an unusual design but the microscope had much success.

People had studied the body organs for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians knew that the inside of the body was made up of organs and they removed some organs during mummification. It was not realized that organs were made of smaller units called cells.

The first recorded study of cells was not until the 17th century when Robert Hooke used a microscope he developed to view a thin slice of cork. Unknowingly, then, Hooke had laid the foundations for a new science but about a century was to pass before the significance of his work was grasped. It was not until 1805 that the German naturalist, Lorenz Oken, formally published what has become known as the cell theory ‘All life comes from cells and is made up of cells’. The cell theory also provides us with an operational definition of ”life”. The tutorial on prokaryote, eukaryotes and viruses explores this concept in more detail.

The cell is the fundamental unit of life. Your health depends on what happens within the many different types of cells that make up our body. The immune system is a network of cells (and organs) that has developed to defend the body against attacks by “foreign” invaders, like germs, that can cause illness. Under normal conditions, your immune system protects your body from diseases and infections by killing these harmful “foreign” substances that enter the body. The cell theory has relieved our battles of illness and showed us a simpler way of treating disease and recognize different diseases that contain different types of cells. We can now cure illnesses and identify them simply with a microscope.

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