1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Schleiden, Matthias Jakob

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3926871911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 24 — Schleiden, Matthias Jakob

SCHLEIDEN, MATTHIAS JAKOB (1804–1881), German botanist, was born at Hamburg on the 5th of April 1804. He studied law at Heidelberg and practised as an advocate in Hamburg till 1831, but not succeeding he studied botany and medicine at Göttingen and Berlin, and in 1839 graduated at Jena, where he was appointed extraordinary professor of botany, becoming honorary professor in 1846 and ordinary professor in 1850. In 1863 he was called to Dorpat, but resigned the following year and returned to Germany, where he lived as a private teacher. He died at Frankfort-on-Main on the 23rd of June 1881. His title to remembrance is twofold. Uniting the labours of two centuries of workers in vegetable histology, he proved that a nucleated cell is the only original constituent of the plant embryo, and that the development of all vegetable tissues must be referred to such cells, thus preparing the way for the epoch-making cell theory of Theodor Schwann (q.v.); and his Principles of Scientific Botany (1842–1843), which went through several editions, did much to shake the tyranny of the purely systematic Linnean school, whose accumulations he was accustomed irreverently to describe as “ hay.” Despite a certain inability to criticize and verify his own hypotheses, he gave, both by his speculative activity and by the introduction of improved technical methods, so vivid an impulse to the younger botanists of his time as to have earned from Anton de Bary the title of reformer of, scientific botany. His botanical labours practically ceased after 1850, when he entered on various phi1osophical and historical studies.