See H. Gray, Gray's Anatomy (1987).
Biological field that deals with bodily structures as revealed by dissection. Herophilus first laid the factual groundwork for gross anatomy, the study of structures large enough to see without a microscope. Galen's ideas were the authority for anatomy in Europe until Andreas Vesalius's methods placed it on a firm foundation of observed fact. The microscope permitted the discovery of tiny structures (e.g., capillaries and cells), the subject of microscopic anatomy. Crucial advances in this area—including the microtome, which slices specimens into extremely thin sections, and staining—led to the new fields of cytology and histology. Electron microscopy opened up the study of subcellular structures, and X-ray diffraction gave rise to the new subspecialty of molecular anatomy. Comparative anatomy compares similar structures in different animals to see how they have changed with evolution.
Learn more about anatomy with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Anatomy (from the Greek ἀνατομία anatomia, from ἀνατέμνειν ana: separate, apart from, and temnein, to cut up, cut open) is a branch of biology that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy (zootomy) and plant anatomy (phytotomy). In some of its facets anatomy is closely related to embryology, comparative anatomy and comparative embryology, through common roots in evolution.
Anatomy is subdivided into gross anatomy (or macroscopic anatomy) and microscopic anatomy. Gross anatomy (also called topographical anatomy, regional anatomy, or anthropotomy) is the study of anatomical structures that can be seen by unaided vision. Microscopic anatomy is the study of minute anatomical structures assisted with microscopes, which includes histology (the study of the organisation of tissues), and cytology (the study of cells).
The history of anatomy has been characterized, over time, by a continually developing understanding of the functions of organs and structures in the body. Methods have also advanced dramatically, advancing from examination of animals through dissection of cadavers (dead human bodies) to technologically complex techniques developed in the 20th century.
Superficial anatomy or surface anatomy is important in anatomy being the study of anatomical landmarks that can be readily seen from the contours or the surface of the body. With knowledge of superficial anatomy, physicians or veterinary surgeons gauge the position and anatomy of the associated deeper structures. init
Generally, students of certain biological sciences, paramedics, physiotherapists, nurses and medical students learn gross anatomy and microscopic anatomy from anatomical models, skeletons, textbooks, diagrams, photographs, lectures and tutorials. The study of microscopic anatomy (or histology) can be aided by practical experience examining histological preparations (or slides) under a microscope; and in addition, medical students generally also learn gross anatomy with practical experience of dissection and inspection of cadavers (dead human bodies).
Human anatomy, physiology and biochemistry are complementary basic medical sciences, which are generally taught to medical students in their first year at medical school. Human anatomy can be taught regionally or systemically; that is, respectively, studying anatomy by bodily regions such as the head and chest, or studying by specific systems, such as the nervous or respiratory systems. The major anatomy textbook, Gray's Anatomy, has recently been reorganized from a systems format to a regional format, in line with modern teaching methods. A thorough working knowledge of anatomy is required by all medical doctors, especially surgeons, and doctors working in some diagnostic specialities, such as histopathology and radiology.
Academic human anatomists are usually employed by universities, medical schools or teaching hospitals. They are often involved in teaching anatomy, and research into certain systems, organs, tissues or cells.
Comparative anatomy relates to the comparison of anatomical structures (both gross and microscopic) in different animals.
Anthropological anatomy or physical anthropology relates to the comparison of the anatomy of different races of humans.
Artistic anatomy relates to anatomic studies for artistic reasons.