1878 Mitosis

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Walther Flemming, Edouard Van Beneden, Otto Bütschli, Eduard Strasburger cell biology Mitosis


Wilhelm von Waldeyer-Hartz called them chromosomes, Greek for “colored bodies,” because they were visible as small threads when Walther Flemming stained them blue using an aniline dye. Flemming named stuff in the cell that could be stained blue chromatin. So Flemming gets the credit for discovering chromosomes, and he was able to watch them in the process of cell division, which he called mitosis, Greek for “warp thread.” * Others had observed mitosis earlier than Flemming, but they didn’t have the means of making the parts visible using dyes. * Edouard Van Beneden observed chromosomes during the production of gametes by 1868. Wacław Myzel described mitosis in cornea cells of frog, rabbit, and cat in 1875. Otto Bütschli observed mitosis and called chromosomes rodlets by 1876. Eduard Strasburger observed cell formation and cell division in gymnosperms by 1876.

Omnis nucleus e nucleo

Eduard Strasburger famously wrote, “New cell nuclei can arise only from the division of other nuclei.” Flemming coined the phrase omnis nucleus e nucleo, “all nuclei come from nuclei,” after Rudolf Virchow’s phrase omniis cellula e cellula.

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Do not confuse mitosis with meiosis, miosis, myositis, myosotis, amitosis, acidosis, or halitosis. Meiosis is a form of mitosis that results in germ cells (with half the chromosomes of the parent). Flemming was not aware of the laws of inheritance; working out the relation between chromosomes, mitosis, and genetics took another twenty years.

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