Dr. Albert Claude, a founder of modern cell biology who never graduated from high school and who went on to win a Nobel Prize in medicine, died Sunday night in Belgium. He was 84 years old.

Dr. Claude was the first scientist to apply the electron microscope to the study of cells. The instrument had been used by physicists and metallurgists, but Dr. Claude saw its potential and worked to find ways of preparing delicate cells to withstand the high vacuum and electron bombardment the microscope creates. In 1945 he published the first detailed view of cell anatomy.

He pioneered the use of centrifuges to separate the various components of the cell and carried out the inventory of their biochemical functions. Centrifuges are spinning devices that accelerate the rate at which solid particles settle to the bottom of a liquid.

Also, he is credited as being the first, in 1933, to isolate a cancer virus by chemical analysis and to characterize it as an RNA, or ribonucleic acid, virus. Shared Prize in 1974

His Nobel Prize came in 1974 for work he had done 30 years earlier, much of it at what is now known as the Rockefeller University in New York. He shared the prize with Dr. Christian Rene de Duve and Dr. George Emil Palade, who developed Dr. Claude's findings.

The three scientists and their colleagues discovered and learned the function of such cell constituents as ribosomes and lysosomes. Dr. Claude discovered a number of subcellular structures such as mitochondria, which store the cell's energy.

Dr. Claude and his co-workers transformed man's view of the cell from a blurry perception of a tiny blob to a highly detailed understanding that cells are miniature organisms equipped with a variety of specialized internal organs, or organelles, as they are called. Cited for Wartime Valor

Albert Claude was born Aug. 24, 1898, in Longlier, Belgium. As a youngster, his dream was to study medicine, but he never finished high school. Instead, he became an apprentice draftsman at a steelworks.

In World War I he worked voluntarily in the British Intelligence Service and was once cited for valor by Winston Churchill, then England's war minister.

Because of his wartime service, the Belgian Government allowed him to start his university studies in 1922. He earned his medical degree in 1928 at Liege University.

His parents were American citizens and Dr. Claude himself became a naturalized American citizen in 1941. He left the Rockefeller University for Belgium, where he became head of the cytology department at the Free University of Brussels. Later he was associated with the University of Liege, director of the Jules Bordet Institute in Belgium and founder of a cancer research laboratory in Brussels.

Among his many honors was the Louisa G. Horwitz prize that Columbia University awarded him in 1970.