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Pringsheim, Nathanael

algae cells botany sexual

(1823–94) German botanist: made important studies of algae and cell reproduction.

Pringsheim’s father wished him to become an industrialist like himself, but the boy was attracted to science. A course in medicine was a compromise, but on graduation he escaped to research in botany. He did little teaching and inherited enough money to follow his interests in his home laboratory in Berlin and his Silesian estate.

Pringsheim contributed to the revival of scientific botany in the later 18th-c, mainly by his work on lower plants. He was an early observer of sexual reproduction in algae, and of the alternation of generations between the two sexual forms of zoospores and the asexual spore resulting from their fusion. His work on marine algae led him to the view that natural selection is unimportant in evolution; he thought (like ) that variations are spontaneous, without survival value, and tend always to greater complexity of form. His studies supported the view that cells result from the division of pre-existing cells, and not from a process of free-cell formation as claimed by he first described the plastids, granules found only in plant cells and containing either starch or chlorophyll.

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