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Cell. Part 1, The hidden kingdom.

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About this work


The first in a three-part series in which biologist Adam Rutherford looks in depth at cells. This part begins by looking back to the first discovery of a cell under the microscope, in Holland, 1674. The history of the cell is bound up with the history of microscopes and the improvement of lenses. We hear how Antoni van Leeuwenhoek discovered the microscopic world of cell life in the late 17th century, and the role of Robert Hooke in deciphering this. Eventually, though, the imagination of the microscope pioneers wasn't matched by their technology. However, philosophers such as van Helmont believed that life emerged spontaneously and did not make a connection with the findings of Hooke and Leeuwenhoek. Robert Brown discovered the nucleus while researching plant life at Kew Gardens; this was to be a major influence on cell theory as was his later Brownian motion to inspire atomic theory. The design of greater microscopes was begun by Joseph Lister; Theodor Schwann utilised this new technology when investigating human and animal flesh but still it was only when he encountered the botanical studies of Matthias Schleiden that the theory of cell life was born. However, they were mistaken in thinking that new cells emerged through spontaneous generation. In Paris, Louis Pasteur successfully countered this theory but it was Robert Remak who discovered cell division, founding the field of embryology.


UK : BBC 4, 2009.

Physical description

1 DVD (60 min.) : sound, color, PAL


Broadcast on 9 August, 2009.

Creator/production credits

Produced and directed by Andrew Thompson.

Copyright note




  • English

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