The cell is the structural and functional unit of all known living organisms. It is the smallest unit of an organism that is classified as living, and is often called the building block of life. Some organisms, such as most bacteria, are unicellular (consist of a single cell). Other organisms, such as humans, are multicellular. (Humans have an estimated 100 trillion or 1014 cells; a typical cell size is 10 µm; a typical cell mass is 1 nanogram.) The largest known cell is an unfertilized ostrich egg cell.
In 1837 before the final cell theory was developed, a Czech Jan Evangelista Purkyně observed small "granules" while looking at the plant tissue through a microscope. The cell theory, first developed in 1839 by Matthias Jakob Schleiden and Theodor Schwann, states that all organisms are composed of one or more cells. All cells come from preexisting cells. Vital functions of an organism occur within cells, and all cells contain the hereditary information necessary for regulating cell functions and for transmitting information to the next generation of cells.
The word cell comes from the Latin cellula, meaning, a small room. The descriptive name for the smallest living biological structure was chosen by Robert Hooke in a book he published in 1665 when he compared the cork cells he saw through his microscope to the small rooms monks lived in.
Each cell is at least somewhat self-contained and self-maintaining: it can take in nutrients, convert these nutrients into energy, carry out specialized functions, and reproduce as necessary. Each cell stores its own set of instructions for carrying out each of these activities.
All cells have several different abilities:
In biology, an organism is a living thing (such as animal, plant, fungus, or micro-organism). In at least some form, all organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homeostasis as a stable whole. An organism may either be unicellular (single-celled) or be composed of, as in humans, many billions of cells grouped into specialized tissues and organs. The term multicellular (many-celled) describes any organism made up of more than one cell.
The term "organism" (Greek ὀργανισμός - organismos, from Ancient Greek ὄργανον - organon "organ, instrument, tool") first appeared in the English language in 1701 and took on its current definition by 1834 (Oxford English Dictionary).
The word "organism" may broadly be defined as an assembly of molecules that function as a more or less stable whole and has the properties of life. However, many sources propose definitions that exclude viruses and theoretically-possible man-made non-organic life forms. Viruses are dependent on the biochemical machinery of a host cell for reproduction.
In multicellular life the word "organism" usually describes the whole hierarchical assemblage of systems (for example circulatory, digestive, or reproductive) themselves collections of organs; these are, in turn, collections of tissues, which are themselves made of cells. In some plants and the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, individual cells are totipotent.
Viruses are not typically considered to be organisms because they are incapable of "independent" reproduction or metabolism. This controversy is problematic, though, since some parasites and endosymbionts are also incapable of independent life. Although viruses have a few enzymes and molecules characteristic of living organisms, they are incapable of reproducing outside a host cell and most of their metabolic processes require a host and its 'genetic machinery' such as organelles in eukaryotic hosts and the assemblage of ready-made enzymes (which the virus cannot make by itself) in prokaryotic hosts. While viruses sustain no independent metabolism, and thus are usually not accounted organisms, they do have their own genes and they do evolve by the same mechanisms by which organisms evolve.
A superorganism is an organism consisting of many organisms.
Biology (from Greek βιολογία - βίος, bios, "life"; -λογία, -logia) is the study of life and a branch of the natural sciences which studies living organisms and how they interact with each other and their environment. It examines the structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, and distribution of living things. Also, it classifies and describes organisms, their functions, and how species come into existence. Four unifying principles form the foundation of modern biology: cell theory, evolution, genetics and homeostasis.
Biology as a separate science was developed in the nineteenth century as scientists discovered that organisms shared fundamental characteristics. Biology is now a standard subject of instruction at schools and universities around the world, and over a million papers are published annually in a wide array of biology and medicine journals.
Most biological sciences are specialized disciplines. Traditionally, they are grouped by the type of organism being studied: botany, the study of plants; zoology, the study of animals; and microbiology, the study of microorganisms. The fields within biology are further divided based on the scale at which organisms are studied and the methods used to study them: biochemistry examines the fundamental chemistry of life; molecular biology studies the complex interactions of systems of biological molecules; cellular biology examines the basic building block of all life, the cell; physiology examines the physical and chemical functions of the tissues and organ systems of an organism; and ecology examines how various organisms and their environment interrelate.
Although the concept of biology as a single coherent field arose in the 19th century, the biological sciences emerged from traditions of medicine and natural history reaching back to Galen and Aristotle in the ancient Greco-Roman world, which were then further developed in the Middle Ages by Muslim physicians such as al-Jahiz, Avicenna, Avenzoar and Ibn al-Nafis. During the European Renaissance and early modern period, biological thought was revolutionized in Europe by a renewed interest in empiricism and the discovery of many novel organisms. Prominent in this movement were Vesalius and Harvey, who used experimentation and careful observation in physiology, and naturalists such as Linnaeus and Buffon who began to classify the diversity of life and the fossil record, as well as the development and behavior of organisms. Microscopy revealed the previously unknown world of microorganisms, laying the groundwork for cell theory. The growing importance of natural theology, partly a response to the rise of mechanical philosophy, encouraged the growth of natural history.
Over the 18th and 19th centuries, biological sciences such as botany and zoology became increasingly professional scientific disciplines. Lavoisier and other physical scientists began to connect the animate and inanimate worlds through physics and chemistry. Explorer-naturalists such as Alexander von Humboldt investigated the interaction between organisms and their environment, and the ways this relationship depends on geography—laying the foundations for biogeography, ecology and ethology. Naturalists began to reject essentialism and consider the importance of extinction and the mutability of species. Cell theory provided a new perspective on the fundamental basis of life.
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