Robert Remak;was a physician born in Posen, Germany in 1815. He obtain his higher education at the University of Berlin and began a medical practice in the same city, where he was the first to use electrotherapy to treat nervous diseases. He never, however, lost his interest in education or research, so, even while earning a living from doctoring, he assisted at his old University. In 1830 made his first discovery; the 'fibers of Remak', which should have helped his career. Unfortunately the University refused to pay him any stipend for religious reasons, Remak was Jewish. But this did not prevent his from continuing with his work and the discovery of the heart nerve fibers which we now name after him; Remak's ganglia.
Eventually, like Mendel, he got his teaching post and became the first Jewish teacher at the University in 1847, and was promoted to assistant professor in 1859. None of these promotions reflect his genius or his importance in the early discoveries of cells. He died in 1865, the year of our story.
Matthias Jakob Schleidenwas born on April 5, 1804, in Hamburg. He was educated at Heidelberg, starting in 1824 and went on to become a lawyer with a flourishing practice in Hamburg. As a part time hobby he took up the study of plants, but was discouraged by the 18th century attitude and emphasis on classification and morphology. Instead, Schleiden joined the growing group of new 'biologists' who preferred to look at plant structures down the newly improved microscopes.
Eventually this led to him becoming a professor of botany at the University of Jena where, in 1838, he wrote one of his famous books, "Contributions to Phytogenesis". In this book he quite clearly states that all the different parts of a plant are composed of cells or cellular like structures. He was thus the first new biologist to formally emphasize the importance of cells.
He was also one of the first European scientists to recognize the importance of Darwin's work to the science of biology, and he eventually became a professor of botany at Dorpat, Russia, in 1863. He died in Frankfurt on June 23, 1881.
Theodor Schwann;was born on Dec. 7, 1810, in the town of Neuss, then in the sate of Prussia. He studied medicine in Berlin, but became fascinated by the work of physiologist Johannes Peter Muller, whom he assisted. Muller advised him to study digestion and while doing so he discovered the agent responsible for protein digestion in the stomach. This turned out to be the first enzyme purified from animal material, and is now called pepsin.
He became a professor of physiology at the University of Louvain in Belgium in 1839, and while there began using the microscope to study the tiny yeast cells involved in fermentation. He was able to deduce that the yeast cells were metabolizing the sugar and producing the alcohol and carbon dioxide.
When he heard of Schleiden's work on plant cells, he plunged into this new field and extended the work to animal tissues which he published in a 1839 as the ' Microscopic Researches into Accordance in the Structure and Growth of Animals and Plants'.
But it was at the universities of Louvain and Liege that he did his most famous work on muscular contraction and nerve structure. He discovered the striated muscle in the upper esophagus and found that nerve axons are covered with a myelin sheath. These covering cells are now termed Schwann cells.
His research, however was far from over. From his work on living tissue and the chemical changes he could see happening, he coined the term metabolism. Which he extended to the role played by microorganisms in putrefaction. Still later he used his microscope to study embryology and observed that the fertilized egg is a single cell that, amazingly, eventually developed into a fully formed, multicellular animal.
He died on Jan 11th, 1882.
Rudolf (Carl) Virchow;was born in 1821, and studied medicine in Berlin. He became a professor of pathological anatomy at Wurburg and eventually moved to Berlin in 1856, where, two years later, he published 'Cellularpathologie', a book that confirmed Remak's observations on the importance of cells, the cellular foundations of pathology and, most importantly, confirmed suspicions that all cells come from pre-exiting cells.
His interest in cells led him to study leukemia and tumors, which he was sure were all cellular in origin, but he also contributed to the public health by also studying hygiene and sanitation.
At the macro level, he co-founded the German Anthropological Society in 1869, and almost single handedly forced these studies on German Universities.
He should, however, have stayed out of politics. He became a liberal member of the Reichstag in 1880 and quickly became a vocal opponent of the most powerful European of his day - Bismarck.
He died in 1902.