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Visions of Cell BiologyReflections Inspired by Cowdry's "General Cytology"$
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Karl S. Matlin, Jane Maienschein, and Manfred D. Laubichler

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226520483

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226520650.001.0001

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Changing Ideas about Cells as Complex Systems

Changing Ideas about Cells as Complex Systems

(p.15) Chapter 2 Changing Ideas about Cells as Complex Systems
Visions of Cell Biology

Jane Maienschein

University of Chicago Press

In 1940, cell biologists celebrated the centennial of Schleiden and Schwann’s cell theory. Yet a resulting symposium volume and textbooks of the time show mixed ideas about the importance of cells. Do cells drive development and organismal function, or are they the structural units of a holistic organismal living system? To what extent and in what ways is each cell itself a complex living system with autonomy, integrity, and biological importance in their own right? The questions reflected those being established in Edmund Cowdry’s 1924 edited volume General Cytology. That volume brought together a group of leading American biologists, who recognized the value of working collaboratively together to capture the state of thinking about cells. As Edmund Beecher Wilson noted in his introduction to the volume, one single researcher could no longer capture the important work of cell biology alone. The Cowdry volume is a product of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and it shows a strong commitment to the importance of cells as complex living systems.

Keywords:   cell, organism, system, living, Cowdry

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