June 23rd in German History: The Death of Matthias Jakob Schleiden

PSM V22 D156 Matthias Jacob Schleiden.jpg
Matthias Jakob Schleiden.

Germany has produced innumerable scientists during the course of its long and storied existence. Albert Einstein, Max Plank, and Werner Heisenberg alone revolutionized their fields and contributed greatly to human advancement. However, many more scientists are forgotten. One such person is Matthias Jakob Schleiden, a German biologist who was critical to the development of cell theory and was one of the first Darwinists in Germany. He died on June 23rd, 1881.

Schleiden was born on April 5th, 1804 in the city of Hamburg. His father was a physician, but he decided to study law, graduating from law school in 1827. Following a period of emotional depression, he changed professions and studied natural science and later plant embryology at the university. He studied plants under a microscope, and in 1838 published a book in which he declared that all plants were composed of cells. He further theorized that all plant life arises from a single cell and that the nucleus played a role in cell division. He made a career as an academic, holding the position of professor of botany at the University of Dorpat in 1863. He endorsed and advocated for Darwinism, and was one of the first in Germany to do so.

Schleiden’s contributions to biology, both in his own discoveries and in his support of the discoveries of others, helped advance human understanding. He was one of many scientists who were critical to the development of the modern world, even if their names do not feature as often in textbooks or news articles.

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