Francesco Redi's Cell Theory

Written by nancy hayden
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Francesco Redi's Cell Theory
Francesco Redi's experiments with maggots and flies played a part in understanding cell generation. (two flys image by Irina Kodentseva from

Cell theory is the currently accepted concept that all living organisms are made up of individual biological cells. Centuries of theorising and experimentation were compiled by some of science's greatest minds to prove this theory correct.

Francesco Redi

Francesco Redi was an Italian physician and scientist born in 1626. He was also a prolific author, writing both creatively and scientifically. He produced the groundbreaking book "Experiments on the Origins of Insects" in 1668.

Redi's Theory

During Redi's time a common theory was abiogenesis, which asserted that living organisms can spontaneously grow from dead or inorganic matter. Francesco's work to disprove abiogenesis would later play a crucial role in the development of cell theory.


The supporting argument for abiogenesis at the time stemmed from the appearance of maggots on rotting meat; it was thought that the meat was turning into maggots. Redi performed a series of experiments with meat, leaving some meat covered and some uncovered. He discovered that maggots only appeared on the uncovered meat. He also spent time studying the maggots and realised that they eventually turned into flies. His research didn't garner much respect at the time, but it did serve to cast doubt on the spontaneous generation theory.

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