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Anatomy is largely known as the branch of biology dealing with the structures of animals. This could either be Zootomy, or the study of lower creatures and animals, or Human Anatomy, which is for most cases, the more important and sought after branch. It is knowledge of the structures, form, composition, size, position and relations of the body parts with each other. Human Anatomy is a vast and complex subject that there are only a few professionals in this area of study. To gain knowledge and expertise in human anatomy requires one to undergo years of training and observation, dissection and inspection of cadavers and an equal amount of knowledge in palpation for live subjects. Every landmark and structure in the body is considered and its relation to other parts, most especially in cases of emergency. Human anatomy is a required area of study and mastery for medical students or pre-medical students and doctors. In the practice of their profession, a mere miscalculation or mistake in identifying the location, position and function of a structure could cost them their license or their patient. Every detail in Human anatomy must be exact from the most superficial to the deepest area. Human Anatomy is divided into two branches: Gross Anatomy and Microscopic Anatomy. Gross Anatomy is the study of the entire human body through what can be seen by the naked eye, while Microscopic Anatomy is the study of the human body with the aid of microscopes, reaching the tissue and cell levels or studies known as histology and cytology respectively.
Anatomy had its beginnings from the 5th – 4th century BC where it was an area of study that triggered the curiosity of many Greek scientists. The first scientist to be known for using dissection in his studies and researches is Alcmaeon. His research was not focused on anatomy itself as he was more interested on the roots of human intelligence. But through his works in dissection, the first discoveries were made in the field of human anatomy. In the early 3rd century BC Herophilus and Erasistratus of Alexandria made the first scientific studies directed to uncover the working and structure of human anatomy. Throughout the centuries many scientists devoted their time to discover more and more of the human body and its composition. The invention of the microscope paved way for the understanding of the deeper structures lying in the body and the discovery of pathways in the body connecting each organ to another. By the 1830’s great milestones were established in the field of microscopic anatomy including cell structures, tissue organization and the like. In 1953, a deeper study of microscopic anatomy revealed the structure of DNA which has unlocked so much knowledge on human disease and cures since the introduction of genetics.
Anatomy is widely studied by all students involved in the medical profession such as nurses, physical therapists, undergraduate medicine students, dentists, paramedics, radiologist and much more. This study is complement to physiology and biochemistry since a deeper understanding can be obtained when the whole function of the human body is reviewed in detail.
The history of the study of human anatomy can be traced back to the ancient Egyptian civilization. In fact, the earliest evidences that humans studied anatomy was found in an ancient Egyptian papyrus dated 1600 BC. In this treatise was a list of the recognized parts during that time such as the heart and its vessels, liver, spleen, kidneys, hypothalamus, uterus, and bladder. Another treatise, called the Ebers papyrus and dated 1550 BC, noted the heart including its vessels were the center of the blood supply. The knowledge recorded in the past was improved during the 5th and 4th centuries by Greek physicians who used animal cadavers to study the inner parts of the human body.
Hippocrates, a Greek physician, was the first to demonstrate the most basic knowledge on musculoskeletal structure and was the first to discover the tricuspid valve of the heart which he recorded on his treatise On the Heart. Other Greek physicians like Aristotle also performed numerous dissections on animal cadavers; their knowledge improved the recorded difference between the arteries and the veins, and the relationship between the different organs. It was only during the late 4th century BC that human cadavers were used for dissection. Two physicians, Herophilos and Erasistrasus, were the first to perform a vivisection or live dissection on criminals under the observation of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Their findings greatly improved the accuracy of the knowledge in anatomy and became the first step to greater improvements as time passed.
With the rise of technology, sciences like evolutionary biology, molecular biology, and endocrinology emerged. These helped the physicians in understanding the human body more accurately. The focus of the study of anatomy shifted from understanding the inner works of the human body to the understanding of the development, evolution, and function of anatomical features.
As a field of study, Anatomy is perfect for students who are interested in learning and understanding the functions of the human’s inner body. Students will learn about the different systems such as digestive, cardiovascular, respiratory, integumentary, reproductive, lymphatic and immune, endocrine, nervous, urinary, skeletal, and muscular systems. They will be required to take biology courses that will help them learn about tissue structures, cellular and structural components of the body. Chemistry courses are also required to help them learn about the different chemical functions and reactions inside a human body such as protein/enzyme production, synthesis reactions, mitoses, meiosis, diffusion, and osmosis. Students will also learn about the different common elements present in the human body, and they will be able to differentiate between carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. Courses in other sciences such as cell biology and histology, structural biology, regional and gross anatomy, molecular mechanics, endocrinology, secretory dynamics, embryology, and neuroanatomy are also required.
For graduates who have in-depth knowledge on human Anatomy can find career opportunities in education as post-secondary biological science teachers, in research as biological scientist, and in medicine as medical scientist and natural sciences managers.
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