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Definition of cell

Updated on March 8, 2014
A drawing of cork cells (Robert Hooke)
A drawing of cork cells (Robert Hooke)

The history of cell starts with the invention of microscope. The simplest microscope was prepared for the first time by Jenssen (1590) and Galileo (1610). Later on, Robert Hooke(1665) made the first compound microscope and examined thin slices of cork. He observed that the cork was composed of small box like components similar to honey comb. He called these compartments, the cells( cell: GK. kytos; L; cellula= hollow space).

The meaning of 'Cell'

The fundamental autonomous unit of plant and animal bodies, consisting of , at least, a cell membrane containing cytoplasm and nuclear material, but often having a more complex structure. Simple organisms are unicellular, but more complex organisms consist of many cooperating cells. Characteristically in plants , but not in animal, cells are surrounded by a polysaccharide wall.(Oxford Dictionary )


Definition of cell

Some of the definitions are as follows

  • Cell is the structural and functional unit of living organisms
  • Cell is the structural and functional unit of living organisms and made up of protoplasm
  • Cell is the smallest living unit capable of independent existence
  • Cell is the smallest mass of living matter ( protoplasm) containing nucleus or nuclear material
  • Cell is a piece of nucleated cytoplasm surrounded by cell wall or plasma membrane.

None of the above definition is true because of each definition are available.

Loewy and Siekevitz (1963) gave the definition of a cell which has been accepted by majority of scientists. The definition as follows:

“Cell is the unit of biological activity delimited by semi permeable membrane and capable of self reproduction in a medium free from other living systems.”

Animal cell vs Plant cell


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