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Cell Biology

What Is Cell Biology?


What Is Cell Biology?

Cell biology is the subdiscipline of biology that studies the basic unit of life, the cell. It deals with all aspects of the cell including cell anatomy, cell division (mitosis and meiosis), and cell processes such as cell respiration, and cell death. Cell biology does not stand alone as a discipline but is closely related to other areas of biology such as genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry.

Based on one of the basic principles of biology, the cell theory, the study of cells would not have been possible without the invention of the microscope. With the advanced microscopes of today such as the Scanning Electron Microscope and Transmission Electron Microscope, cell biologists are able to obtain detailed images of the smallest of cell structures.

Significant Events in Cell Biology

There have been several significant events throughout history that have led to the development of the field of cell biology as it exists today. Below are a few of these major events:
  • 1655 - Robert Hooke gives first description of a cork tree cell.
  • 1674 - Leeuwenhoek views protozoa.
  • 1683 - Leeuwenhoek views bacteria.
  • 1831 - Robert Brown was first to identify the nucleus as an important cell component.
  • 1838 - Schleiden and Schwann introduce what would become the Cell Theory.
  • 1857 - Kolliker describes mitochondria.
  • 1869 - Miescher isolates DNA for the first time.
  • 1882 - Kock identifies bacteria.
  • 1898 - Golgi discovers the Golgi apparatus.
  • 1931 - Ruska builds the first Transmission Electron Microscope.
  • 1953 - Watson and Crick propose structure of DNA double-helix.
  • 1965 - First commercial Scanning Electron Microscope produced.
  • 1997 - First sheep cloned.
  • 1998 - Mice cloned.
  • 2003 - Human genome DNA sequence draft completed.
Careers in Cell Biology

Study in the field of cell biology can lead to various career paths. Many cell biologists are research scientists who work in industrial or academic laboratories. Other opportunities include:
  • Cell Culture Specialist
  • Clinical Quality Auditor
  • Clinical Researcher
  • Food & Drug Inspector
  • Industrial Hygienist
  • Medical Doctor
  • Medical Illustrator
  • Medical Writer
  • Pathologist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Physiologist
  • Professor
  • Quality Control Specialist
  • Technical Writer
  • Veterinarian


All living organisms are composed of cells. Some organisms are comprised of cells that number in the trillions. There are two primary types of cells: eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. Eukaryotic cells have a defined nucleus, while the prokaryotic nucleus is not defined or contained within a membrane. While all organisms are composed of cells, these cells differ among organisms.  Some of these differing characteristics include cell structure, size, shape, and organelle content. For example, animal cells, bacterial cells, and plant cells have similarities, but they are also noticeably different. Cells have different methods of reproduction. Some of these methods include: binary fission, mitosis, and meiosis. Cells house an organisms genetic material (DNA), which provides instructions for all cellular activity. 

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