What Happened in 1670 With the Cell Theory?


Vincent White

In the world of biology, the cell theory is a fundamental concept that explains the basic unit of life. It is an established fact that all living organisms are made up of cells.

However, it was not until the late 1600s that the foundation for this theory was laid. In 1670, a Dutch naturalist named Antonie van Leeuwenhoek made an important discovery that would change the course of biology forever.

The Discovery of Microorganisms

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was a skilled craftsman who created his own microscopes for scientific observation. In 1670, he examined a drop of lake water under his microscope and discovered tiny, single-celled organisms swimming around. These were the first microorganisms ever observed by humans.

The Importance of Leeuwenhoek’s Discovery

Leeuwenhoek’s discovery was groundbreaking because it challenged the prevailing belief at the time that all living things were composed of one substance called “animalcules.” By observing these microorganisms, Leeuwenhoek provided evidence that there was a vast array of different types of living organisms in existence.

The Development of Cell Theory

Leeuwenhoek’s discovery paved the way for further research into what would become known as cell theory. Over time, other scientists expanded upon his work and developed a more complete understanding of how cells function.

One critical contribution to this field came from German botanist Matthias Schleiden and German physiologist Theodor Schwann in 1838 and 1839 respectively. Schleiden studied plant tissues while Schwann studied animal tissues, but both came to the same conclusion – all living things are made up of cells.

These findings formed the basis for cell theory, which states that:

  • All living things are composed of one or more cells.
  • The cell is the basic unit of life.
  • All cells come from pre-existing cells through the process of cell division.

Advancements in Cell Theory

As technology improved, so did our understanding of cells. In the 20th century, scientists discovered that cells contain genetic material in the form of DNA. This led to a more comprehensive understanding of how cells function and how they contribute to the overall functioning of living organisms.

In recent years, advances in technology have allowed scientists to study cells at an even higher level of detail. For example, electron microscopes allow us to see structures within cells that were once impossible to observe.


In summary, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek’s discovery in 1670 paved the way for the development of cell theory, which is a fundamental concept in the field of biology. Today, we know that all living things are made up of one or more cells and that these cells are responsible for carrying out essential life functions. Thanks to ongoing research and advancements in technology, we continue to deepen our understanding of this critical aspect of biology.