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Matthias Jakob Schleiden

Born  1805-04-05
Died  1881-06-23

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    German botanist, born April 5, 1804, Hamburg; died June 23, 1881, Frankfurt am Main.

    Biography of Matthias Jakob Schleiden

    Matthias Jakob Schleiden is recognised as the discoverer of the universality of cell structure in plants, and with Schwann shares the honour of originating the cell theory.

    Schleiden was the son of a well-to-do municipal physician of Hamburg. He first studied law at the University of Hamburg from 1824 to 1827 and obtained a doctorate. He subsequently practiced law in Hamburg, but was unhappy with his career choice and choose to develop his hobby of botany into a full-time pursuit. In 1833 he began to study natural science at Göttingen and then transferred to Berlin. In choosing botany he was encouraged by his botanist uncle, Johann Horkel (1769-1849).

    During these years the famous naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and the Scottish botanist Robert Brown (1773-1858) lived in Berlin. Schleiden worked in the laboratory of Johannes Peter Müller (1801-1858), where he met Theodor Schwann.

    In this inspiring milieu, Schleiden worked intensively and produced noteworthy publications. He obtained his doctorate in 1839 at Jena and was then able to give free reign to his pedagocical fervor. He lectured and wrote both technical and popular scientific works on the widest range of topics.

    Schleiden’s lectures drew anthusiastic, overflow audiences and his numerous articles appeared in highly respected journals.

    He declined an offer from the University of Giessen in 1846, but in 1850 he accepted nomination as titular professor of botany at Jena. He also received many honors from learned societies. In spite of his success, Schleiden decided to leave Jena. His combative personality probably contributed to this decision; he was often involved in polemics with leading figures of the day.

    He soon became a highly regarded popular lecturer and writer, and he was one of the most popular popularizers of the age.

    Schleiden left Jena in 1862 and stayed for a short time in Dresden, before accepting an invitation  to become professor of anthropology at Dorpat. Even though he did not stay there long, the Russian government granted him a pension. He became a Privatgelehrter and thereafter frequently moved from one city to another.

    In 1838 Schleiden published Beiträge zur Phytogenesis in Müller’s Archiv für Anatomie, Physiologie und wissenschaftliche Medicin. This article, which was immediately translated into French and English, fixed his name in the history of biology. In this article, Schleiden demonstrated the cell structure of plants and the imprtance of the nucleus in vegetabilic histology. He postulates that the different parts of the plant organism are composed of cells or derivatives of cells.

    Tradition has it that the cell theory was conceived in a conversation between Schleiden and Schwann on the subject of phytogenesis.

    Schleiden starts from Robert Brown (1773-1858)’s discovery of the cell nucleus (1832), which Schleiden called the cytoblast, and then indicates its role in the formation of cells.

    From the start of his career, Schleiden showed a predilection for the microscope, and he contributed greatly to its introduction in biological research. He engaged in long and sometimes bitter disputes with Giovanni Batista Amici, one of the outstanding micrographers and opticians of the period. Schleiden is thought to have paid an active role in the establishment of the Zeiss optical works in Jena.

    A number of Schleiden’s articles contain virulent criticism of the botanists of the first half of the nineteenth century, many of whom still upheld the ideas of nature philosophy, against which his textbook was a frontal attack. More important, however, it introduced new pedagogical standard that were to dominate the teaching of botany for years. Beginning with the second edition, the work bore the title Botanik als inductive Wissenschaft. From the time of its founding in 1857, Schleiden was a frequient contributor ot Westermanns Monatshefte, a periodical that maintained high literary and scientific standards.

    Schleiden’s last publications were scholarly studies on the fate of the Jews in the Middle Ages, on their martyrdom, and on their importance in transmitting knowledge to the Occident. These works, which were reprinted and translated, stimulated much interest; they also testify to the liberality of Schleiden’s thinking in a period that witnessed the first anti-Semitic campaigns in the universities of Wilhelmine Germany.

    Schleiden was one of the first German biologists to accept Charles Darwin 's theory of evolution.

    ”As a popularizer he was  a model, as a scientist an initiator.”
    L. Errera, One of his early biographers.

    Marc Klein (1905-1975):
    Schleiden, Mathias Jakob
    . In Charles Coulston Gillispie, editor in chief: Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Charles Scribner’s Sons. New York, 1970. Volume 12: 173.


    Robert Brown:
    Observations on the organs and mode of fecundation in Orchideae and Asclepiadeae.
    Transactions of the Linnean Society, 1829-1832, 16: 685-746.
    Discovery, in 1831, of the cell nucleus.

    Einige Blicke auf die Entwicklungsgeschichte des vegetabilischen Organismus bei den Phanerogamen. Wiegmann’s Archiv für Naturgeschichte, 1837, 3: 289-320.

    Beiträge zur Phytogenesis.
    [Müller’s] Archiv für Anatomie, Physiologie und wissenschaftliche Medicin, 1838, 137-176.
    French translation in Annales des sciences naturelles. Botanique, 1839; 11: 242-252, 362-370.
    English in Scientific memoirs, 1841; 2: 281-312.

    Ueber Bildung des Eichens und Entstehung des Embryos bei den Phanerogamen.
    Nova acta Academiae Caesareae Leopoldino-Carolinae Germanicae Naturae Curiosorum, volume 19, 1839.

    Grundzüge der wissenschaftlichen Botanik nebst einer methodologischen Einleitung als Anleitung zum Studium der Pflanze. Leipzig : Wilhelm Engelmann, 2 volumes, 1842-1843.
    Teil 1: Methodologische Einleitung. Vegetabilische Stofflehre. Die Lehre von der Pflanzenzelle.
    2nd edition: Die Botanik als inductive Wissenschaft behandlet. Leipzig, 1845-1846.
    3rd edition: Die Botanik als inductive Wissenschaft. Grundzüge der wissenschaftlichen Botanik nebst einer Einleitung als Anleitung zum Studium der Pflanzen. Leipzig, 1849.
    Volume I: Methodologische Grundlage Vegetabilische Stofflehre. Die Lehre von der Pflanzenzelle.
    Volume II: Morphologie, Organologie. 4th edition; Leipzig, 1861.
    English translation by Edwin Ray Lankester (1847-1929) as Principles of Scientific Botany as an Inductive Science. London, 1849.
    “Since the elementary organic cells present a marked individualization and since they are the most general expression of the concept of the plant, it is necessary, first of all, to study this cell as the foundation of the vegetable world.”

    Beiträge zur Botanik. Gesammelte Aufsätze. Leipzig, 1844.

    Schelling’s und Hegel’s Verhältnis zur Naturwissenschaft. Leipzig, 1844.

    Ueber die Wichtigkeit des Mikroskops in allen Zweigen der Naturwissenschaft. Archiv der Pharmacie, eine Zeitschrift des Apotheker-Vereins in Norddeutschland , 1844, 87: 68-82, 291-310

    Die Pflanze und ihr Leben. Populäre Vorträge, Leipzig: Engelmann, 1848. Dritte Auflage, Leipzig, 1852, VIII + 395 + (1) pages. Leipzig, 1848. 5th edition, 1858. English translation, 1848.

    Handbuch der medicinisch-pharmaceutischen Botanik und botanischen Pharmacognosie.
    Teil 1: Handbuch der medicinisch-pharmaceutischen Botanik zum Gebrauch bei Vorlesungen und zum Selbststudium. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann 1851 (1852. 2 volumes.
    Teil 2: Handbuch der botanischen Pharmacognosie für Aerzte, Apotheker und Botaniker zum Gebrauch bei Vorlesungen und zum Selbststudium. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann, 1857.

    Populäre Vorträge. Leipzig, 1855. 2nd edition, 1857.

    Über den Materialismus unserer Zeit: Zerstreute Gedanken.
    Westermanns Monatshefte, 1857, 1: 37-45.

    Die Landenge von Suez und der Auszug der Isräeliten aus Egypten.
    Westermanns Monatshefte, 1848, 4: 262-273.

    Ueber die Anthropologie als Grundlage für alle übrigen Wissenschaften, wie überhaupt der menschenbildung. Westermanns Monatshefte, 1862, 11: 49-58.

    Das Salz. Seine Geschichte. Seine Symbolik und seine Bedeutung im Menschenleben. Eine monographische Skizze. Leipzig, 1875.

    Die Bedeutung der Juden für Erhaltung und Wiederbelebung der wissenschaften im Mittelalter.
    Westermanns Monatshefte, 1877, 41: 52-60, 156-169.

    Die Romantik des Martyriums bei den Juden im Mittelalter.
    Westermanns Jahrbuch der Illustrirten Monatshefte, Braunschweig: George Westermann, 1878, 44: 166-178.

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