On the Origin of Mitosing Cells by Lynn Sagan appeared in the March 1967 edition of the Journal of Theoretical Biology. At the time the article was published, Lynn Sagan had divorced astronomer Carl Sagan, but kept his last name. Later, she remarried and changed her name to Lynn Margulis, and will be referred to as such throughout this article. In her 1967 article, Margulis develops a theory for the origin of complex cells that have enclosed nuclei, called eukaryotic cells. She proposes that three organelles: mitochondria, plastids, and basal bodies, which are all parts of eukaryotic cells, were once free-living cells that took residence inside primitive eukaryotic cells. This process Margulis called endosymbiosis. Margulis' theory explained the origin of eukaryote cells, which are the fundamental cell type of most multicellular organisms and form the basis of embryogenesis. After fertilization, embryos develop from a single eukaryotic cell that divides by mitosis.

The Cell in Development and Inheritance, by Edmund Beecher Wilson, provided a textbook introduction to cell biology for generations of biologists in the twentieth century. In his book, Wilson integrated information about development, inheritance, chromosomes, organelles, and the structure and functions of cells. First published in 1896, the book started with 371 pages, grew to 483 pages in the second edition that appeared in 1900, and expanded to 1,231 pages by the third and final edition in 1925. Wilson dedicated the book to the cell biologist Theodor Boveri, whose work established the roles of chromosomes in cell division. With its explanations and many illustrations and diagrams, The Cell in Development and Inheritance enabled embryologists to better understand development in terms of cell structure and function.

Lynn Petra Alexander Sagan Margulis was an American biologist, whose work in the mid-twentieth century focused on cells living together in a mutually advantageous relationship, studied cells and mitochondria in the US during the second half of the twentieth century. She developed a theory for the origin of eukaryotic cells, that proposed two kinds of structures found in eukaryotic cells mitochondria in animals, and plastids in plantsÑwere once free-living bacteria that lived harmoniously and in close proximity to larger cells, a scenario called symbiosis. Margulis proposed that the larger cells eventually engulfed the free-living bacteria, resulting in cells living inside other cells, a situation called endosymbiosis. Margulis'theory became called the serial endosymbiosis theory (SET). Her work contributed to explanations of the evolution and development of life, as eukaryotic cells comprise most multicellular organisms, including their embryos.

Curt Jacob Stern studied radiation and chromosomes in humans and fruit flies in the United States during the twentieth century. He researched the mechanisms of inheritance and of mitosis, or the process in which the chromosomes in the nucleus of a single cell, called the parent cell, split into identical sets and yield two cells, called daughter cells. Stern worked on the Drosophila melanogaster fruit fly, and he provided early evidence that chromosomes exchange genetic material during cellular reproduction. During World War II, he provided evidence for the harmful effects of radiation on developing organisms. That research showed that mutations can cause problems in developing fetuses and can lead to cancer. He helped explain how genetic material transmits from parent to progeny, and how it functions in developing organisms.

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