Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.
There has been a plethora of scientists over recent centuries. Some make small contributions to science, while others make a much bigger impact in science. One scientist that has had a very long-lasting and profound impact in science is Theodor Schwann. He was a prized German scientist with many discoveries and contributions under his belt. Let's discuss some of those now.
Theodor Schwann focused his studies for many years on the body as an anatomist and physiologist. The next time you're enjoying your favorite meal, he might pop into your mind. That's because he discovered an enzyme in the stomach called pepsin. Pepsin is very instrumental to the digestion of proteins in the stomach. Prior to Schwann's discovery, scientists were only aware of hydrochloric acid being present in the stomach to cause digestion of food.
Adults all over the world enjoy drinking alcohol in the form of wine, beer, and spirits. It was Theodor Schwann that discovered what's required for sugar to ferment, or turn into alcohol. It was thought that the process of sugar fermentation occurred due to the loss of electrons during a chemical reaction. Well, Schwann discovered that fermentation actually occurs due to yeast converting the sugar into alcohol. This caused changes in more places than just the science community. The process of fermentation using yeast is still used today.
One of his other discoveries isn't one you would readily think about, but it pointed to some cells that are very pertinent in allowing your brain to communicate with your body and vice versa. When Schwann was studying the nervous system, he of course observed the nerve cells that other scientists had also seen. But he looked beyond viewing the nerve cell as one cell and studied it closer. This is how he discovered the cells that are wrapped around the nerve cells that help allow nerve signals to be transmitted. These cells were named after him and therefore called, Schwann cells. You may also hear them called neurilemma cells as well which basically describes their function.
Outside of having cells named after him, he's most notoriously known for his part in the cell theory. This is the theory that states that ''all living organisms are made up of cells and all cells come from pre-existing cells.'' Now, Schwann doesn't get credit for the entire cell theory, but he did earn his credit for the first part of the theory.
Several other scientists already discovered various types of cells, to include plant, bacterial, and blood cells. So the science community was aware that cells existed. These discoveries remained rather independent, though, and no one put together the big picture.
Schwann was studying the notochord, which is a skeletal-like structure in the back that directs development in embryos. He chose to view the nuclei of cells from the notochord and compared those to nuclei from plant cells. There were many similarities. From here, Schwann used the theory that another scientist named Matthias Schleiden proposed, which states that plant cells share a common structure and are all derived from the nuclei of old plant cells. Schwann proposed that the same is true for animal cells. He wrote a book where he introduced his ''Cell Theory'', stating that all animals and plants are composed of cells. The last part of the cell theory was added on by another scientist about 17 years later.
Schwann had a couple other contributions to science that you are likely familiar with. There was once a point in time that people believed that living organisms spontaneously appeared from non-living things. This thought was called spontaneous generation of life theory. This probably sounds ridiculous to think that people actually thought that frogs were generated to life from mud or flies from meat. Well, it didn't sound right to Schwann either!
He carried out several experiments where he killed all microbes in containers of broth and sterilized the air above it so that it didn't contain any microbes. He covered the containers and, of course, nothing spontaneously grew out of the broth. This proved that living things do not come from non-living things, thus disproving the once widely accepted spontaneous generation of life theory.
There is one more contribution that Schwann made to science and humanity. He viewed different types of tissues in animals under the microscope and made notes about their similarities and differences. He then categorized the tissues based on his observations. He came up with five distinct groups of tissues. His categorization gave rise to identification and further classification of specific tissue types.
He did a lot with his life! Let's recap what we learned. Theodor Schwann was a prized German scientist with many discoveries and contributions. His discoveries include:
- Pepsin - an enzyme in the stomach that digests proteins
- Fermentation- conversion of sugar into alcohol; requires yeast in order to occur
- Schwann cells, also called neurilemma cells - cells wrapped around nerve cells that help allow nerve signals to be transmitted
He did research and proposed the first portion of the Cell Theory - 'All living organisms are made up of cells, and all cells come from pre-existing cells.'
His other major contributions include:
- Disproving the spontaneous generation of life theory that stated that living organisms spontaneously appeared from non-living things
- Classified tissues in animals into groups based on similarities and differences
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack