In 1663, English physicist Robert Hooke viewed cork under a microscope and observed that "these pores, or cells, were not very deep, but consisted of a great many little boxes." Although Hooke's discovery, which involved only the outer boundaries of cells, is considered the beginning of cell biology, it was nearly 200 years before two Germans, botanist Matthias Jakob Schleiden and physiologist Theodor Schwann, focused attention on the microcosm of life in the cell.

Hooke, Schleiden, Schwann, and the many others who painted the early portraits of cells would be astounded if they could see the state of cell biology today. Researchers now order cells from catalogs, charging them to grant numbers or credit cards. Cancer cells and blood cells are routinely fused to create a totally new cell type, the hybridoma. Thanks to genetic engineering, tobacco cells glow with a firefly's light, mice manufacture human antibodies, corn plants produce...

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