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R. Hooke, Fellow of the Royal Society


Observ. XVIII.  Of the Schematisme or Texture of Cork, and of the Cells and Pores of some other such frothy bodies.

I took a good clear piece of Cork, and with a Pen-knife sharpen’d as keen as a Razor, I cut a piece of it off, and thereby left the surface of it exceedingly smooth, then examining it very diligently with a Microscope, me thought I could perceive it to appear a little porous; but I could not so plainly distinguish them, as to be sure that they were pores, much less what Figure they were of:  But judging from the lightness and yielding quality of the Cork, that certainly the texture could not be so curious.

So wrote Robert Hooke in his ground breaking 1665 publication of Micrographia.   Because these small pores looked monastic, Hooke labelled them cells.  Today Hooke is credited with naming the building blocks of all life - a cell.

And talking of cell, there are two distinct types - those with a nucleus and those without.  Bacteria fall into the category of organisms (or domain) that do not have a nucleus.  For these nucleuslessness organisms, all the components of respiration and replication are loosely lumped within the cellular membrane.  For almost 2 billion years, life on earth comprised these type of organisms (to call them creatures would be an exaggeration).  This was life at it's most basic, most likely in the sea and very anaerobic.  At some unknown and remote moment, single celled bacteria absorbed other bacteria.  The resultant configuration was a new type of cell - and one which cleverly lumped important functions such as respiration, replication and enzyme production into distinct zones - the nucleus and mitochondria. This was a quantum leap from the simple cellular organism.  The new cell, with nucleus and mitochondria was hugely more efficient that it's ancestor. From this point onward, life forms grew inexorably more complex and diverse.

In broad sweeps, the more complex organisms with nucleus and mitochondria, evolved into plant like organisms.  Again, it is surmised that the plant like organisms developed from the inclusion of cells within cells.  When plants first made their appearance, the earth's atmosphere was rich in gaseous carbon  and devoid of oxygen.  Plant life changed that.  In the background, ancestral anaerobic bacteria was still around, although life out of water proved quite inhospitable.  There is nothing anaerobic bacteria dislike more than oxygen.  In the spirit of life's driving force, a new type of bacteria started to evolve - this one being able to thrive on oxygen in the air - the advent of aerobic bacteria.


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