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Schleiden, Jakob Mathias

cells plant cell botany

[ shliy den] (1804–81) German botanist: a founder of cell theory.

Schleiden studied law in Heidelberg and practised it in his birthplace, Hamburg; but his interest in botany grew and he studied it at three universities, graduating at Jena in 1831. He lectured on botany there from 1839, and became a private teacher of botany after 1864. He was a skilful microscopist, and from about 1840 good compound microscopes became available that were largely achromatic. By 1880, thanks to improved designs by , oil-immersion objectives and better sectioning and staining of specimens, the instrument reached a high point, with good resolution at magnifications up to 2000×. Plant cells (ie delimited spaces within walls) had been observed two centuries earlier by and others, but Schleiden’s studies convinced him of their importance, and by 1838 he argued that all the various plant structures are composed of cells or their derivatives. He accurately observed many features and activities in plant cells (eg cytoplasmic streaming); he recognized the importance of the nucleus in cell division, but believed (wrongly) that new cells were formed by budding from its surface.

Despite some uncritical attitudes and a quick temper his ability was great; he has been named as ‘the reformer of scientific botany’ and he initiated work, which led to their joint creation of cell theory. He was a popular writer and lecturer on a wide range of matters and frequently engaged in harsh combative debates on scientific theories.

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