The Science of Existence – Cells


Every cell is derived from another cell. ~ French chemist, naturalist and physiologist François-Vincent Raspail

The biological world is comprised of cells. (The study of living cells is cytology.) Though physically self-contained, much of the activity within a cell relates to what’s outside. More than anything, a cell’s life is defined by its ecology.

Inside a cell, the modus operandi is self-assembly. The components that make up a cell, from molecules on up, organize themselves. This continuing coherence is the miracle of life.

From a cellular perspective, life takes 2 forms: prokaryotic and eukaryotic. The terms for these cell types derive from ancient Greek: eu means “true,” karyon “kernel.” Hence, whereas a eukaryote has a compartmentalized nucleus, a prokaryote – “before the kernel” – does not.


Microbial single-celled organisms are prokaryotes. They include bacteria and archaea.

One of several differences between archaea and bacteria is archaeal tolerance for living in the most extreme environments, at temperatures and in chemical conditions that no other life can withstand. Bacteria are robust, but archaea are tremendously tough. Despite distinctions between the two, their cell structure and functioning are largely selfsame.

Prokaryotes are everywhere: in the soil, water, and air. Their reach far exceeds all other life. Microbes are by far the most abundant and diverse life on the planet; some 25 times the total biomass of all animal life. There are well over a million different types of prokaryote.