The advances of functional biology can be described by two vectors; this symposium searches for resultants of these vectors. The first evolves from the idea of a general physiology and is expressed in the advances of the fields loosely designated as cell biology, biochemistry, and molecular biology. Here the theme is Claude Bernard's phenomènes de la vie communs aux animaux et aux végétaux and much more: the intrinsic material design and operations of all entities having properties associated with life, past and present, terrestrial and possibly extraterrestrial. The other vector is directed by our experience of real organisms in a real world: the awful variety, subtlety, and adaptations of real organisms, cells, and communities of cells. However appealing unity may be, biological science has found no way to reject the perplexities of specialization and still to perform its mission.
The elongation of both vectors in recent years has been imposing. Not only has the existence of some truly general principles of cell structure, energy mobilization, biosynthesis, and reproduction been demonstrated, but these are being translated into molecular principles.
The obdurate necessity of accounting for the lives of real organisms in an experienced world and great technical advances have produced a deeper insight into specialized cells, as this volume will illustrate abundantly. Of the greatest moment has been the collapse of the rather silly dichotomy of physiology and morphology that prevailed a generation ago. This liberation was occasioned largely by the enhanced respectability of morphology with the advent of the electron microscope, and the result has been revolutionary, especially when coupled with a simultaneous interlocking of physiology and biochemistry. The result, which provides the essence of this symposium, has been the treatment of the specialized cell as a cell in its full sense, not merely as a device for photosynthesis, conduction, contraction, etc.
Such was the background of the decision of the Council of the Society of General Physiologists to ask the editors of this volume to organize a symposium on the general physiology of cell specialization. The intention of the organizers was to summarize the facts about some of the more important expressions of cell specialization and to discuss them, where possible, in the light of facts and ideas about the universal aspects of cell structure and function. The discussions would stress the nature of cell specialization rather than the mechanism of differentiation. There have been many symposia on the latter subject, and it seemed more likely that an intensive consideration of the specialized cell might throw some light on the nature of differentiation than that we could add significantly to the . . .