Cell is called the fundamental unit of life. All living beings are composed of this basic unit of life. Cell means the little room in Latin.

A cell is capable of independent existence and can carry out all the functions which are necessary for a living being. Unicellular organisms are capable of the independent existence which shows a cell’s capability to existing independently


  • All living organisms are composed of one or more cells.
  • The cell is the basic unit of structure, function, and organization in all organisms.
  • All cells come from preexisting, living cells.


Shape and Size of Cells:- Cells come in all shapes and sizes. While most of the cells are spherical in shape, cells of various other shapes are also found. Most of the cells are microscopic in size, i.e. it is impossible to see them with naked eyes. Some cells are fairly large, e.g. a neuron in the human body can be as long as 1 meter. The egg of an ostrich is the largest known cell of a living animal and an average egg is 15 cm long and 13 cm wide.

A cell is enclosed in a membranous casing and is filled with a liquid substance which is called the cytoplasm. There are many parts in a cell, some of the main structures are as follows:

Cell wall: Cell wall is made of cellulose. The cell wall is available in plant cells and in cells of bacteria and fungi.

Plasma membrane: Plasma membrane is a semi-permeable membrane.

Functions of Plasma Membrane: Plasma membrane provides a structure to hold the cytoplasm. It facilitates passage of various substances in and out of the cell.

Nucleus: Nucleus is covered by a double membrane; called nuclear membrane. The fluid which is inside the nucleus is called nucleoplasm. The nucleus contains chromosomes which are important for the functioning of a cell it also controls all the functions of the cell.

Mitochondria: Mitochondrion is a capsule-like structure. It is a double membrane structure. Its inner membrane is projected into numerous finger-like structures; called cristae. Mitochondria are the sites of cellular respiration. After cellular respiration, energy is stored in the form of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate); in mitochondria. Mitochondria have their own DNA and ribosomes and hence mitochondria can produce their own protein.

Functions of Mitochondria:- Cellular respiration; due to this, mitochondria are also known as the ‘powerhouse of the cell’




Endoplasmic Reticulum: Endoplasmic reticulum is a mesh-like structure which is composed of numerous tubes. It extends from the plasma membrane to the nuclear membrane. There are two kinds of endoplasmic reticulum, viz. smooth ER and rough ER. Rough ER has ribosomes on its surface which give it the rough appearance.

Functions of ER: It serves as the transport channel in the cell. Substances are transported from cell membrane to cytoplasm and to nucleus and vice-versa. ER also serves the role of packaging many substances in the cell.

Golgi Complex: Golgi Complex was discovered by Camillo Golgi. It is composed of many sac-like structures which are stacked one above another. It is responsible for packaging of various substances in the cell.

Lysosome: Lysosome are small sac-like structures containing digestive enzymes and they are derived from Golgi complex. The lysosome is also called the ‘suicide bag of the cell’.

Ribosome: These are the tiny dot-like structures interspersed in the cytoplasm and also on the surface of rough ER. The ribosome is responsible for protein synthesis.

Plastids: These are somewhat similar to mitochondria; in appearance. Plastids are found in plant cells. They are of two types, chromoplast and leucoplast. Colourful plastids are called chromoplast and colourless plastids are called leucoplast.

Functions of Plastids: Leucoplasts are responsible for storing food; such as carbohydrates, protein and lipid. Chromoplasts impart various colours to the plant parts. A leaf of a plant is green in colour because of the chloroplast.

Vacuoles: These are fluid-filled chambers and are often seen in many cells. Vacuoles are very large in plant cells. Vacuoles are much smaller and very few in animal cells.


  • Robert Hooke was the first to discover cell (1665).
  • Leeuwenhoek was the first to discover free-living cells in pond water (1674).
  • Robert Brown discovered the nucleus (1831).
  • Purkinje coined the term ‘protoplasm (1839).
  • Schleiden (1838) and Schwann (1839) proposed the Cell Theory. Virchow (1855) made a further addition to the cell theory.
  • The discovery of electron microscope (1940) made it possible to study the structures of cell organelles.