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What is cell theory?

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Quick Answer

Cell theory is the scientific theory that describes the properties of cells, primarily that the cell is the basic unit of life, and all living things are made of cells and all cells come from pre-existing cells. Modern cell theory is the result of centuries of research and experimentation facilitated by the invention of the microscope. Cell theory dispels the past myth of spontaneous generation or life coming from nothing.

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Cell theory states that the cell is the basic unit of life; it is the smallest unit that is still considered a living thing. The components of a cell, organelles and molecules, are not living.

According to the biology department of the University of Miami, the key to cell theory is the proposition that all living things are made of cells. Every organism, no matter how complex, is made up of an intricate system of cells. Some organisms are unicellular, comprised of a single cell.

Prior to the universal acceptance of cell theory, a common belief was that of spontaneous generation, the notion that life springs from abiotic factors. The biology department of the University of Miami recognizes German philosopher Lorenz Oken as the first person to articulate this principle in 1805 when he stated "All living things originate from and consist of cells."

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What are the three parts of the cell theory?

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    The three fundamental propositions of classical cell theory are that the cell is the most basic unit of life, all life is made up of cells and cells are formed only by other cells. Each tenet of this theory is important to understanding the way living things function on every level.

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  • Q:

    What is Anton van Leeuwenhoek's cell theory?

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    Cell theory states that all living organisms are made up of cells and that the cell is the basic unit of life. It also states that all cells arise from preexisting cells. The formulation of this theory is not attributed to Anton van Leeuwenhoek, but his pioneering work with microscopy was essential in its development.

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  • Q:

    Who developed cell theory?

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    Cell theory was developed in the early 19th century by three German scientists, Theodor Schwann, Matthias Jacob Schleiden and Rudolf Virchow. While all three scientists contributed to the generally accepted classical cell theory, each hypothesized different sections of it and had parts of their theory refuted and replaced.

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  • Q:

    What limits cell division?

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    Cell division is limited by a process called cellular senescence, during which cells in culture divide more slowly before stopping entirely. The cells do not necessarily die during senescence, but they no longer replicate.

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