Cells (biology)

In biology, the cell (from Latin cella, meaning "small room") is the basic structural, functional and biological unit of all known living organisms. Cells are the smallest unit of life that can replicate independently, and are often called the "building blocks of life". The study of cells is called cell biology.

Cells consist of a protoplasm enclosed within a membrane, which contains many biomolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids.

Organisms can be classified as unicellular (consisting of a single cell; including most bacteria) or multicellular (including plants and animals). While the number of cells in plants and animals varies from species to species, humans contain about 100 trillion (1014) cells.

diagram of an average prokaryotic cell. image: wikipedia

 Most plant and animal cells are visible only under the microscope, with dimensions between 1 and 100 micrometres.

The cell was discovered by Robert Hooke in 1665. 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, 
  • that all cells come from preexisting cells, 
  • that vital functions of an organism occur within cells, and 
  • that all cells contain the hereditary information necessary for 
    • regulating cell functions and for
    • transmitting information to the next generation of cells. 


Cells emerged on Earth at least 3.5 billion years ago.

Anatomy of cells- or what's inside and on the surface of cells

There are two main types of cells: