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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index V > Rudolf Virchow Quotes > Cell

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Rudolf Virchow
(13 Oct 1821 - 5 Sep 1902)

German pathologist and statesman who originated the concept that disease arises in the individual cells of a tissue and, with publication of his Cellular Pathology (1858), founded the science of cellular pathology.


Rudolf Virchow Quotes on Cell (9 quotes)

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Omnis cellula e cellula
Every cell from a cell.
— Rudolf Virchow
The doctrine he popularized (but did not originate). Given, for example, in the Latin form, in Lecture II 'Physiological Tissues' (17 Feb 1858) given to the Pathological Institute of Berlin, as translated by Frank Chance in Cellular Pathology (1860), 27-28. Also translated as: “Every cell stems from another cell”. Part of a longer quote on this page that begins: “Where a cell arises…”. Although popularized by Virchow, the aphorism was actually coined by François-Vincent Raspail.
Science quotes on:  |  Cell (146)  |  Doctrine (81)  |  Motto (29)  |  Origin Of Life (37)

All of our experience indicates that life can manifest itself only in a concrete form, and that it is bound to certain substantial loci. These loci are cells and cell formations. But we are far from seeking the last and highest level of understanding in the morphology of these loci of life. Anatomy does not exclude physiology, but physiology certainly presupposes anatomy. The phenomena that the physiologist investigates occur in special organs with quite characteristic anatomical arrangements; the various morphological parts disclosed by the anatomist are the bearers of properties or, if you will, of forces probed by the physiologist; when the physiologist has established a law, whether through physical or chemical investigation, the anatomist can still proudly state: This is the structure in which the law becomes manifest.
— Rudolf Virchow
In 'Cellular-Pathologie', Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und fur klinische Medizin (1855), 8, 19, as translated in LellandJ. Rather, 'Cellular Pathology', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays by Rudolf Virchow (1958), 84.
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Bismarck, enraged at Virchow’s constant criticisms, has his seconds call upon the scientist to challenge him to a duel. “As the challenged party, I have the choice of weapons,” said Virchow, “and I chose these.” He held aloft two sausages. “One of these,” he went on, “is infected with deadly germs; the other is perfectly sound. Let his Excellency decide which one he wishes to eat, and I will eat the other.” Almost immediately the message came back that the chancellor had decided to laugh off the duel.
— Rudolf Virchow
As quoted in Clifton Fadiman (ed.), André Bernard (ed.), Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), 556, citing E. Fuller, 2500 Anecdotes.
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Cellular pathology is not an end if one cannot see any alteration in the cell. Chemistry brings the clarification of living processes nearer than does anatomy. Each anatomical change must have been preceded by a chemical one.
— Rudolf Virchow
Attributed in H. Coper and H. Herken, Deutsche Medizini Wochenschrift (18 Oct 1963), 88, No. 42, 2035, in the original German, “Nach der Überlieferung durch His soll Virchow geäußert haben: ‘Die Zellular-pathologie ist nicht am Ende, wenn man an einer Zelle keine Veränderungen mehr sehen kann. Die Chemie steht der Erklärung der Lebensvorgänge näher als die Anatomie. Jede anatomische Verände-rung setzt notwendig eine chemische voraus.’” As translated in Angel Pentschew,'Morphology and morphogenesis of lead encephalopathy', Acta Neuropathologica (Sep 1965) 5, No. 2, 133-160, as cited in I. Arthur Michaelson and Mitchell W. Sauerhoff, 'Animal Models of Human Disease: Severe and Mild Lead Encephalopathy in the Neonatal Rat', Environmental Health Perspectives (May 1974), 7, 204 & 223 footnote. Note: Although given in quotation marks in the original German text, the subject quote is almost definitely NOT verbatim, but only a paraphrase of Virchow’s teachings. The German text introduces the subject quote with, “Nach der Überlieferung durch His soll Virchow geäußert haben:…” which means, “According to tradition Virchow is said to have expressed:…” (using Google translate). However, it is useful as a succinct statement to the effect of what Virchow might say to summarize his doctrine.
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If the man of science chose to follow the example of historians and pulpit-orators, and to obscure strange and peculiar phenomena by employing a hollow pomp of big and sounding words, this would be his opportunity; for we have approached one of the greatest mysteries which surround the problem of animated nature and distinguish it above all other problems of science. To discover the relations of man and woman to the egg-cell would be almost equivalent of the egg-cell in the body of the mother, the transfer to it by means of the seed, of the physical and mental characteristics of the father, affect all the questions which the human mind has ever raised in regard to existence.
— Rudolf Virchow
Quoted in Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel, The Evolution of Man (1897), vol 1, 148.
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Just as a tree constitutes a mass arranged in a definite manner, in which, in every single part, in the leaves as in the root, in the trunk as in the blossom, cells are discovered to be the ultimate elements, so is it also with the forms of animal life. Every animal presents itself as a sum of vital unities, every one of which manifests all the characteristics of life. The characteristics and unity of life cannot be limited to anyone particular spot in a highly developed organism (for example, to the brain of man), but are to be found only in the definite, constantly recurring structure, which every individual element displays. Hence it follows that the structural composition of a body of considerable size, a so-called individual, always represents a kind of social arrangement of parts, an arrangement of a social kind, in which a number of individual existences are mutually dependent, but in such a way, that every element has its own special action, and, even though it derive its stimulus to activity from other parts, yet alone effects the actual performance of its duties.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Lecture I, 'Cells and the Cellular Theory' (1858), Rudolf Virchow and Frank Chance (trans.) ,Cellular Pathology (1860), 13-14.
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No matter how we twist and turn we shall always come back to the cell. The eternal merit of Schwann does not lie in his cell theory that has occupied the foreground for so long, and perhaps will soon be given up, but in his description of the development of the various tissues, and in his demonstration that this development (hence all physiological activity) is in the end traceable back to the cell. Now if pathology is nothing but physiology with obstacles, and diseased life nothing but healthy life interfered with by all manner of external and internal influences then pathology too must be referred back to the cell.
— Rudolf Virchow
In 'Cellular-Pathologie', Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und fur klinische Medizin (1855), 8, 13-14, as translated in LellandJ. Rather, 'Cellular Pathology', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays by Rudolf Virchow (1958), 81.
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The body is a cell state in which every cell is a citizen. Disease is merely the conflict of the citizens of the state brought about by the action of external forces. (1858)
— Rudolf Virchow
From Die Cellularpathologie (1858). As cited in Alan Lindsay Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 250. Although widely quoted in this form, Webmaster has not yet been able to pin down the source of the translation in these few words. (It might be in Rudolph Virchow translated by Lelland J. Rather, Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays (1958), 142-9.) If you know the exact citation to the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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Where a cell arises, there a cell must have previously existed (omnis cellula e cellula), just as an animal can spring only from an animal, a plant only from a plant. In this manner, although there are still a few spots in the body where absolute demonstration has not yet been afforded, the principle is nevertheless established, that in the whole series of living things, whether they be entire plants or animal organisms, or essential constituents of the same, an eternal law of continuous development prevails.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Lecture II 'Physiological Tissues' (17 Feb 1858), as translated by Frank Chance in Cellular Pathology: As Based Upon Physiological and Pathological Histology. Twenty Lectures Delivered in the Pathological Institute of Berlin During the Months of February, March and April, 1858 (1860), 27-28.
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