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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: August 2012

5 - From molecular structures to ecosystems

from II - History of mind of biological knowledge


Chapter overview

Chapter 5 describes contemporary advances in biology, from cells to ecosystems, and also includes questions of securing essential ecosystem functions and services that may become the subject of transdisciplinary processes.

Chapter 5 makes the point that the cell is the basic unit of any organismic being. In Chapter 3 we defined the human being as a cellular system whose (inter-)activities of cells emerge from the fertilized human ovum (i.e. the zygote). The first parts of this chapter introduce emerging knowledge about the microstructure of organisms, the understanding of contagious diseases, and how genetics and epigenetics evolved. In some respects we thus provide insight into the rationale of the cell.

Subsequently, we offer a review of how development of microscopes and other technologies shaped progress in cell research (see Figure 14.1*) and our understanding of microstructures in organisms. In the late nineteenth century, the microscope gave researchers new opportunities to identify the cell, bacteria, amoeba, viruses, and proteins, thus equipping them to understand epidemics and pandemics. Society benefited from knowledge about the previously unexplored microscopic level. Robert Koch’s (1814–77), and particularly Louis Pasteur’s (1822–95), use of the microscope inspired basic research on infectious diseases.