anatomy


anatomy
/euh nat"euh mee/, n., pl. anatomies.
1. the science dealing with the structure of animals and plants.
2. the structure of an animal or plant, or of any of its parts.
3. dissection of all or part of an animal or plant in order to study its structure.
4. a plant or animal that has been or will be dissected, or a model of such a dissected organism.
5. a skeleton.
6. Informal. the human body.
7. an analysis or minute examination.
[1350-1400; ME < L anatomia < Gk anatom(é) a cutting up (ana- ANA- + tom- cut (var. of tem-) + -e n. suffix) + -ia -Y3]

* * *

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.

* * *

Introduction

      a field in the biological sciences concerned with the identification and description of the body structures of living things. Gross anatomy involves the study of major body structures by dissection and observation and in its narrowest sense is concerned only with the human body. “Gross anatomy” customarily refers to the study of those body structures large enough to be examined without the help of magnifying devices, while microscopic anatomy is concerned with the study of structural units small enough to be seen only with a light microscope. Dissection is basic to all anatomical research. The earliest record of its use was made by the Greeks, and Theophrastus called dissection “anatomy,” from ana temnein, meaning “to cut up.”

       comparative anatomy, the other major subdivision of the field, compares similar body structures in different species of animals in order to understand the adaptive changes they have undergone in the course of evolution. (See comparative anatomy.)

Gross anatomy.
      This ancient discipline reached its culmination between 1500 and 1850, by which time its subject matter was firmly established. None of the world's oldest civilizations dissected a human body, which most people regarded with superstitious awe and associated with the spirit of the departed soul. Beliefs in life after death and a disquieting uncertainty concerning the possibility of bodily resurrection further inhibited systematic study. Nevertheless, knowledge of the body was acquired by treating wounds, aiding in childbirth, and setting broken limbs. The field remained speculative rather than descriptive, though, until the achievements of the Alexandrian medical school and its foremost figure, the Greek Herophilus (fl. 300 BC), who dissected human cadavers and thus gave anatomy a considerable factual basis for the first time. Herophilus made many important discoveries and was followed by his younger contemporary Erasistratus, who is sometimes regarded as the founder of physiology. In the 2nd century AD the Greek physician Galen (Galen Of Pergamum) assembled and arranged all the discoveries of the Greek anatomists, including with them his own concepts of physiology and his discoveries in experimental medicine. The many books Galen wrote became the unquestioned authority for anatomy and medicine in Europe because they were the only ancient Greek anatomical texts that survived the Dark Ages in the form of Arabic (and then Latin) translations.

      Owing to church prohibitions against dissection, European medicine in the Middle Ages relied upon Galen's mixture of fact and fancy rather than on direct observation for its anatomical knowledge, though some dissections were authorized for teaching purposes. In the early 16th century, the artist Leonardo da Vinci undertook his own dissections, and his beautiful and accurate anatomical drawings cleared the way for the Flemish physician Andreas Vesalius (Vesalius, Andreas) to “restore” the science of anatomy with his monumental De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (1543; “The Seven Books on the Structure of the Human Body”), which was the first comprehensive and illustrated textbook of anatomy. As a professor at the University of Padua, Vesalius encouraged younger scientists to accept traditional anatomy only after verifying it themselves, and this more critical and questioning attitude broke Galen's authority and placed anatomy on a firm foundation of observed fact and demonstration.

      From Vesalius' exact descriptions of the skeleton, muscles, blood vessels, nervous system, and digestive tract, his successors in Padua progressed to studies of the digestive glands and the urinary and reproductive systems. Hieronymus Fabricius, Gabriello Fallopius, and Bartolomeo Eustachio were among the most important Italian anatomists, and their detailed studies led to fundamental progress in the related field of physiology. William Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood, for instance, was based partly on Fabricius' detailed descriptions of the venous valves.

Microscopic anatomy.
      The new application of magnifying glasses and compound microscopes (microscope) to biological studies in the second half of the 17th century was the most important factor in the subsequent development of anatomical research. Primitive early microscopes enabled Marcello Malpighi (Malpighi, Marcello) to discover the system of tiny capillaries connecting the arterial and venous networks, Robert Hooke (Hooke, Robert) to first observe the small compartments in plants that he called “cells,” and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (Leeuwenhoek, Antonie van) to observe muscle fibres and spermatozoa. Thenceforth attention gradually shifted from the identification and understanding of bodily structures visible to the naked eye to those of microscopic size.

      The use of the microscope in discovering minute, previously unknown features was pursued on a more systematic basis in the 18th century, but progress tended to be slow until technical improvements in the compound microscope itself, beginning in the 1830s with the gradual development of achromatic lenses, greatly increased that instrument's resolving power. These technical advances enabled Matthias Jakob Schleiden (Schleiden, Mathias Jacob) and Theodor Schwann (Schwann, Theodor) to recognize in 1838–39 that the cell is the fundamental unit of organization in all living things. The need for thinner, more transparent tissue specimens for study under the light microscope stimulated the development of improved methods of dissection, notably machines called microtomes that can slice specimens into extremely thin sections. In order to better distinguish the detail in these sections, synthetic dyes were used to stain tissues with different colours. Thin sections and staining had become standard tools for microscopic anatomists by the late 19th century. The field of cytology, which is the study of cells, and that of histology, which is the study of tissue organization from the cellular level up, both arose in the 19th century with the data and techniques of microscopic anatomy as their basis.

      In the 20th century anatomists tended to scrutinize tinier and tinier units of structure as new technologies enabled them to discern details far beyond the limits of resolution of light microscopes. These advances were made possible by the electron microscope, which stimulated an enormous amount of research on subcellular structures beginning in the 1950s and became the prime tool of anatomical research. About the same time, the use of X-ray diffraction for studying the structures of many types of molecules present in living things gave rise to the new subspecialty of molecular anatomy.

Anatomical nomenclature.
      Scientific names for the parts and structures of the human body are usually in Latin; for example, the name musculus biceps brachii denotes the biceps muscle of the upper arm. Some such names were bequeathed to Europe by ancient Greek and Roman writers, and many more were coined by European anatomists from the 16th century on. Expanding medical knowledge meant the discovery of many bodily structures and tissues, but there was no uniformity of nomenclature, and thousands of new names were added as each medical writer followed his own fancy, usually expressing it in a Latin form.

      By the end of the 19th century the confusion caused by the enormous number of names had become intolerable. Medical dictionaries sometimes listed as many as 20 synonyms for one name, and more than 50,000 names were in use throughout Europe. In 1887 the German Anatomical Society undertook the task of standardizing the nomenclature, and, with the help of other national anatomical societies, a complete list of anatomical terms and names was approved in 1895 that reduced the 50,000 names to 5,528. This list, the Basle Nomina Anatomica, had to be subsequently expanded, and in 1955 the Sixth International Anatomical Congress at Paris approved a major revision of it known as the Paris Nomina Anatomica.

      in literature, the separating or dividing of a topic into parts for detailed examination or analysis. Among the better-known examples are John Lyly (Lyly, John)'s Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit and Robert Burton (Burton, Robert)'s Anatomy of Melancholy. The literary critic Northrop Frye (Frye, Northrop), in his book Anatomy of Criticism, narrowed the definition of the word to mean a work resembling a Menippean satire, or one in which a mass of information is brought to bear on the subject being satirized, usually a particular attitude or type of behaviour. The word is from the Greek anatomḗ, “dissection.”

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Anatomy — (from the Greek polytonic|ἀνατομία anatomia , from polytonic|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… …   Wikipedia

  • Anatomy — • The science of the form and structure of living beings Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Anatomy     Anatomy     † …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • ANATOMY — ANATOMY. There is no systematic account of the anatomy of the human body in the Bible, although abundant use is made there of anatomical facts, metaphors, and expressions. Biblical anatomy is factual, empirical in the good sense of the word, and… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Anatomy — A*nat o*my, n.; pl. {Anatomies}. [F. anatomie, L. anatomia, Gr. ? dissection, fr. ? to cut up; ? + ? to cut.] 1. The art of dissecting, or artificially separating the different parts of any organized body, to discover their situation, structure,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • anatomy — [n1] study of animal, plant structure analysis, biology, cytology, diagnosis, dissection, division, embryology, etiology, examination, genetics, histology, inquiry, investigation, medicine, morphology, physiology, zoology; concept 349 anatomy… …   New thesaurus

  • anatomy — index body (person), configuration (form), content (structure) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • anatomy — (n.) late 14c., study of the structure of living beings; c.1400, anatomical structures, from O.Fr. anatomie, from L.L. anatomia, from Gk. anatomia, from anatome dissection, from ana up (see ANA (Cf. ana )) + temnein to cut (see TOME ( …   Etymology dictionary

  • anatomy — *structure, skeleton, framework …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • anatomy — ► NOUN (pl. anatomies) 1) the scientific study of bodily structure. 2) the bodily structure of a person, animal, or plant. 3) a detailed examination or analysis. DERIVATIVES anatomical adjective anatomically adverb anatomist noun …   English terms dictionary

  • anatomy — [ə nat′ə mē] n. pl. anatomies [ME & OFr anatomie < LL anatomia < Gr anatomia, anatomē, a cutting up < anatemnein < ana , up + temnein, to cut: see TOMY] 1. the dissecting of an animal or plant in order to determine the position,… …   English World dictionary


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.