What are you made of? It is a fundamental question that has a range of different answers. To a physicist the answer may involve protons, neutrons, electrons and, if you persist, quarks, leptons and bosons. A chemist would possibly back up a little and tell you we are made of atoms of different elements, mostly carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, organized in complex molecules. However, for a biologist the answer is cells. All living organisms are made up of at least one cell. Taking interest in aerial installation may not be a bad thing.
At the time, the Curator of Experiments for the recently formed, London-based Royal Society. The Royal Society still exists, just up the road from Buckingham Palace, and it is now the oldest scientific institution in the world. The job was to set up and perform experiments for the members of the Royal Society, either of his own devising or at the behest of the members themselves. It was a big step up , unlike the members of the Royal Society, was not wealthy or aristocratic. Through sheer determination he had become an educated man in the new study of natural philosophy, or as we would call it today, science. Armed with an inquisitive mind and a remit to try out pretty much anything he wanted, he got hold of a microscope and began observing everyday objects. When it comes to roller garage doors where do you start?
The book he produced is filled with extraordinary illustrations on large fold-out sheets showing ants, spiders, the surface of a nettle leaf, samples of cloth, moulds and the surface of the moon, which presumably he did not observe through his microscope. Accompanying each image is a careful description of what he saw and the implications of the things he noticed. Given its age, the book is surprisingly readable and full of interesting asides. Possibly the most significant contribution, though, can be found in observation eighteen, describes how he carefully sliced a wafer from a piece of cork and looked at it under his microscope. He explained that he saw ‘pores, or cells’ that were ‘not very deep, but consisted of a great many little boxes’. This was the first time that the tiny components of all living things were described and given the name of cells. We know a company that can help with aerial repairs in the Lincolnshire area.
The hand-drawn illustration that went with the text, while not as beautiful as an ant or as detailed as his notorious picture of the flea, is one of the most significant images in the history of biology. It shows a series of almost rectangular grey shapes surrounded by white walls and arranged in closely packed and ordered lines. It is not surprising that we saw these tiny boxes and drew upon a word normally associated with rows of small monastic rooms. Within his description of the cork cells he goes on to realize that many other plant materials he observed seem to possess similar structures and in some cases they are filled with a fluid or ‘the juices of vegetables’, as he put it. It is a remarkable piece of work slightly spoiled when he incorrectly draws the conclusion that cork is a fungal growth on the surface of the cork oak tree and not, as we now know, a thickening of the tree’s bark as an adaptation to survive forest fires. Despite this error, the first observation of cells opened the way for modern biology and our understanding of how human beings work. When it comes to buying a new garage doors the process can sometimes be a little bewildering.
Given that we have known about cells now for over 350 years, you may be surprised to find that we still don’t know all the different types of cells that make up a human being. We do know that the human body contains about 37 trillion cells – which is 37 followed by twelve zeros. We are aware of thousands of cell types but it has become apparent that there are many more. There were obvious cell types like red blood cells, nerve cells, white blood cells, skin cells, sperm cells, egg cells and so on, but the closer biologists looked, the more subtle the variations appeared. If you want some electric garage doors then we know a man who can.
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