Life at the Cell and Below-Cell Level. The Hidden History of a Fundamental Revolution in Biology
Gilbert N. Ling, Ph.D.
Pacific Press
ISBN 0-9707322-0-1

"Dr. Ling is one of the most inventive biochemist I have ever met."
Prof. Albert Szent-Györgyi,
Nobel Laureate

Chapter 2.

The Same Mistake Repeated in Cell Physiology
(p. 8-9)

Thus far, we have been discussing the structure or anatomy of the living cell. As already mentioned, the science describing how cells function is cell physiology. The understanding of cell physiology rests upon the understanding of cell anatomy. Obviously, a sound cell physiology cannot be built upon an unsound cell anatomy.

Under ideal conditions, cell physiological studies should begin after the anatomy of a typical living cell has been fully and accurately grasped. In reality, the studies of cell physiology began long before the recognition that a typical living cell is solid. Not surprisingly, the appeal of mature plant cells, which had captivated the early cell anatomists, was not lost on the early cell physiologists. Like the early cell anatomists, the early cell physiologists also made the mistake of generalizing what they discovered in the atypical mature plant cell as typical of all living cells. From such a viewpoint, a fluid-filled pig's bladder like the one described next could be seen as a model of all living cells.

Abbé Nollet (1700-1770), Preceptor in the Natural Philosophy to His Majesty Louis XV of France, and the scientific opponent of Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) on electricity, was the first to record in 1748 an experiment on osmosiseven though the term, osmosis, was not yet invented (see below). Nollet immersed in water a pig's bladder filled with water and (grain) alcohol. He discovered that water moved across the bladder wall to the inside of the bladder containing both water and alcohol, but alcohol did not move to the outside containing only water.13 651 Nollet thus discovered an unusual attribute of the bladder wallan attribute later given the name semipermeability by van't Hoff (1826-1894).14 Nollet's discovery also set the stage for the fateful study of artificial membranes of Moritz Traube. However, neither Nollet's work just described nor that of Traube to be described in the chapter immediately following involved living cells.

Two early physiological investigators of the real living cell were René J. H. Dutrochet(1776-1847)3 pp l84-188 and Wilhelm Pfeffer (1845-1920).15 pp 10-11 They too were botanists. And they too worked primarily with mature plant cells. Like Jean Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829)308 and Lorenz Oken (1779-1851),5 Dutrochet had also espoused the idea that cells are the basic units of lifeall before Theodor Schwann's definitive study leading to the same identification {and that of Matthias Schleiden (1804-1881)3 pp l88-189}.

Dutrochet believed that life is movement and its cessation, death. And he studied the movements of water in and out of mature plant cells and called them respectively endosmosis and exosmosis.16 Later, the prefixes were dropped. Spontaneous movement of water in and out of solutions or living cells has been referred to ever since as osmosis.

As mentioned, the microanatomists had rather quickly discovered and corrected the error in describing a typical living cell as a fluid-filled chamber. The early cell physiologists did not make a quick correction on their own; nor did they respond to the revised view of the microanatomists. The same mistake committed by early microanatomists was repeated by the cell physiologists. Only this time, the mistake has endured to this very day. Under the banner of the membrane theory, or the modified version called the membrane-pump theory, the typical living cell is once again a membrane-enclosed dilute solution.

"Life at the Cell and Below-Cell Level.
The Hidden History of a Fundamental Revolution in Biology":

Contents (PDF 218 Kb)
Preface (
PDF 155 Kb)
Answers to Reader's Queries (Read First!) (
PDF 120 Kb)

1. How It Began on the Wrong Foot---Perhaps Inescapably
2. The Same Mistake Repeated in Cell Physiology
3. How the Membrane Theory Began
4. Evidence for a Cell Membrane Covering All Living Cells
5. Evidence for the Cell Content as a Dilute Solution
6. Colloid, the Brain Child of a Chemist
7. Legacy of the Nearly Forgotten Pioneers
8. Aftermath of the Rout
9. Troshin's Sorption Theory for Solute Distribution
10. Ling's Fixed Charge Hypothesis (LFCH)
11. The Polarized Multilayer Theory of Cell Water
12. The Membrane-Pump Theory and Grave Contradictions
13. The Physico-chemical Makeup of the Cell Membrane
14. The Living State: Electronic Mechanisms for its Maintenance and Control
15. Physiological Activities: Electronic Mechanisms and Their Control by ATP, Drugs, Hormones and Other Cardinal Adsorbents
16. Summary Plus
17. Epilogue 

A Super-Glossary
List of Abbreviations
List of Figures, Tables and Equations
References (
PDF 193 Kb)
Subject Index
About the Author

"Life at the Cell and Below-Cell Level..."
"Gilbert Ling"