Wilhelm Friedrich Phillip Pfeffer studied plants in Germany during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He started his career as an apothecary, but Pfeffer also studied plant physiology, including how plants move and react to changes in light, temperature, and osmotic pressure. He created the Pfeffer Zelle apparatus, also known as the Pfeffer Cell, to study osmosis in plants. PfefferÕs experiments led to new theories about the structure and development of plants.

Wilhelm Pfeffer published his book Osmotische Untersuchungen: Studien Zur Zellmechanik (Osmotic Investigations: Studies on Cell Mechanics) in 1877 during his time as a professor of botany at the University of Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Gordon R. Kepner and Eduard J. Stadelmann translated the book into English in 1985. Verlag von Wilhelm Engelmann in Leipzig, Germany, published the original book in German in 1877 and Van Nostrand Reinhold Company in New York, New York, published the English version in 1985. The book focuses on the cell mechanics of osmotic processes to explain why high pressure exists in plant cells. The book also provides one of the earliest detailed descriptions of the Pfeffer Cell, a devise Pfeffer had created to model and study osmosis in plant cells. The model helped Pfeffer propose theories for how osmosis affected metabolism, growth, and development of plant cells.

The Pfeffer Zelle (Pfeffer Cell Apparatus), invented by Wilhelm Pfeffer in 1877, measured the minimum pressure needed to prevent a pure solvent from passing into a solution across a semi-permeable membrane, called osmotic pressure. The apparatus provided Pfeffer with a way to quantitatively measure osmotic pressure. Pfeffer devised the apparatus in the 1870s at the University of Basel in Basel, Switzerland, and he described the Pfeffer Cell Apparatus in his 1877 book Osmotische Untersuchungen: Studien Zur Zellmechanik (Osmotic Investigations: Studies on Cell Mechanics). Pfeffer relied on nineteenth century experiments of Moritz Traube in Germany, who constructed artificial copper ferrocyanide membranes to study osmosis. The apparatus enabled Pfeffer to study osmosis and osmotic pressure as plants grow, and later researchers used it to explain how plants develop.

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