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The cell is a structural-functional elementary unit of the structure and activity of all organisms (except viruses and viroids – life forms that do not have a cellular structure). It has its own metabolism, capable of self-reproduction. An organism consisting of a single cell is called unicellular (many protozoa and bacteria). The section of biology that studies the structure and functioning of cells is called cytology. It is also customary to talk about cell biology, or cell biology.
The first person to see the cells was the English scientist Robert Hooke (known for the discovery of Hooke’s law). In 1665, trying to understand why the cork tree floats well, Hook began to examine the thin sections of the cork with the help of an improved microscope. He found that the cork was divided into many tiny cells that reminded him of honeycombs in honey bee hives, and he called these cells cells (in English, cell means “cell, cell”).
The cellular theory of the structure of organisms was formed in 1839 by German scientists, zoologist T. Schwann and botanist M. Schleiden, and included three provisions. In 1858, Rudolph Virkhov supplemented it with another position, but a number of mistakes were present in his ideas: thus, he assumed that the cells are weakly connected with each other and each exist “by itself”. Only later was it possible to prove the integrity of the cellular system.
For the first time, cells could only be seen after creating optical (light) microscopes. Since that time, microscopy remains one of the most important methods for the study of cells. Light microscopy, in spite of a small resolution, made it possible to monitor living cells. In the 20th century, electron microscopy was invented, which made it possible to study the ultrastructure of cells.