Cell theory

After the first scientists made the first observations about life under the microscope, it took two centuries of research before it was possible to formulate the cell theory , according to which all living beings that exist on the planet are made up of cells or of their products . Cell theory is part of biology and is one of the most important postulates of science as such.

What is cell theory?

The cell theory is a fundamental part of biology that explains the constitution that has the living matter composed of cells and the role they play in the constitution of matter as such.

  • What does it consist of
  • Characteristics of cell theory
  • History
  • Who developed it
  • Principles of cell theory
  • Postulates
  • Explanation
  • Importance of cell theory
  • Examples

What does it consist of

The cell theory is a postulate part of biology that indicates that the cell is the basic structure of every living being, in other words, it establishes that all beings, whether plants, animals or fungi, are made up of cells as basic units but these at the same time they are different and unique . In this regard, it is important to remember that the cell is the structural and functional cell of living beings.

Characteristics of cell theory

Among its main features are the following:

  • The cell theory states that living beings are made up of one or more cells , that the cell is the basic unit of life and that they arise from existing cells .
  • It is a theory that is responsible for describing all the basic properties of all cells.
  • It indicates that cells are carriers of genetic material which is transmitted to daughter cells through cell division .
  • In cells where all the fundamental biochemical reactions for life take place.
  • It states that cells have the ability to nourish themselves , to relate to each other and to reproduce .


The history of cell theory has its antecedents in a series of studies that began to be carried out in ancient civilizations . When the microscope was invented, it had the ability to study, observe and analyze plant cells in the seventeenth century. In 1600 , Antony van Leeuwenhoek , a Dutch merchant with a skill in making lenses, was able to observe the movements of protists and sperm , which he collectively called ” animalcules .”

In a publication made in 1665 , titled Micrographia , the experimental scientist Robert Hooke defined the term ” cell ” to refer to the box-shaped structures that he had observed while observing a cork tissue with a lens. In the 1670s , van Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria and protozoa . Later advances in lenses, microscope construction, and staining techniques allowed other scientists to see different types of components inside cells.

In the late 1830s , botanist Matthias Schleiden and zoologist Theodor Schwann began studying tissues and proposed the unified cell theory . The unified cell theory states that: all living things are made up of one or more cells; the cell is the basic unit of life; and new cells emerge from existing ones.

Who developed it

The cell theory was developed by the Germans Theodor Schwann and Mathías Jackob Schleiden , they were the ones who managed to formulate the first principle of cell theory . Despite its invention, the theory was debated for many years, basically throughout the 19th century. Later, Louis Pasteur was able to verify the theory thanks to his experiments that showed that life did not occur spontaneously.

Principles of cell theory

The principles of cell theory are as follows:

  • The living matter has the ability to metabolize to nourish and self – perpetuating or reproduce but this must have the necessary structures within the cell.
  • The transmission of biological information to the descendants of a species.
  • The cells can be joined in the multicellular body to thereby form tissues.


The cell theory has three different postulates which over time have been modernized as the sciences have evolved. The postulates are:

  • All living beings are made up of cells which can be eukaryotic , prokaryotic or archaea .
  • The basic , structural and functional unit of living beings is the cell and it is also the physiological and morphological unit of all living organisms. The chemical reactions that participate in the vital functions of the body take place within the cell or in its environment and are caused by substances that are specific to cells.
  • Every cell can produce another cell , this from an evolutionary, physiological or biological point of view.
  • At present, a fourth postulate has been created that says that cells are those that contain the genetic and hereditary material where the different characteristics of the cell are located and that it can also be transmitted to daughter cells.


The cell theory tells us that all living organisms that exist are made up of cells and that the cell is also the fundamental and basic unit of life. It also establishes that all cells come from others . For the theory, all life is made up of cells and sees it as a structural unit . It establishes that the cell, as a reproductive unit , is where all the vital processes for life can be found and that it is also capable of producing cell divisions such as meiosis and mitosis .

Importance of cell theory

Cell theory is one of the most important theories that have been developed in the field of science and biology . Knowing that all living things are made up of cells allows us to understand how organisms are created , grow and die . This information helps us understand how new life is created , why organisms take the form they have, how different diseases such as cancer spread, and how diseases can be controlled .

Before cell theory existed, people had a very different view of biology. Many considered spontaneous generation to be the only truth, that is, they believed in the idea that living organisms could arise from non-living matter. Thanks to the cell theory, it was possible to understand that organisms were made up of billions and billions of tiny building blocks that control all of our biological processes . Diseases, the growth of organisms and death were a much greater mystery than what we know today, but the cell theory fundamentally changed our way of seeing life. This theory is also crucial in order to understand thebiology since cells are the basis of all life .


Some examples of cell theory are as follows:

  • The sexual reproduction by which cells can transmit different types of genetic information.
  • The way in which cells can associate to form populations of cells that are in charge of the different functions of the body.
  • With the cell theory, different types of experiments can be carried out on DNA .
  • Studies on living beings considered as eukaryotes .

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