What Is the Relationship Between Anatomy and Physiology?

Gandee Vasan/Stone/Getty Images

Anatomy is the study of form, while physiology is the study of function, according to Wikipedia. Anatomy is the scientific study of the structure of organisms including their systems, organs and tissues. It details the appearance and position of various parts, their material compositions and their locations and relationships with other parts. Physiology deals respectively with the functions of those anatomical parts and the chemical processes involved.

Anatomical study is achieved through simple inspection such as visual observation, palpation, auscultation and percussion. Through palpation, an object in or on the body is felt to determine size, shape, firmness or location. Through auscultation, the internal sounds of the body are heard. By percussion, an examiner can feel abnormal resistance and listen to emitted sounds by tapping on the body. A deeper anatomical understanding is achieved through cadaver dissection or medical imaging. As explained by the Encyclopedia Britannica, technological advances such as the microscope allow for advances in anatomical science, such as the 17th Century discovery of cellular life.

Many insights into human structure are obtained from the comparative anatomy of other species. Structural similarities and differences, along with evolutionary trends are analyzed. Like anatomy, the science of physiology has also gained much insight through technological advances and comparative study, according to Wikipedia. Human physiology seeks to understand the mechanisms that work to keep the human body alive and functioning. These answers are found by scientific enquiry into mechanical, physical and biochemical functions of human organ systems, and the hierarchy of complexity on which they are built. This physiological enquiry focuses on the human body as an entire structure, all the way down to the single cellular component. Anatomy and physiology represent two complementary approaches in biological science.