Physiology

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Overview

Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, an important early achievement in the study of physiology.

Physiology (from Greek: φυσις, physis, “nature, origin”; and λόγος, logos, "speech" lit. "to talk about the nature (of things)") is the study of the mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions of living organisms.

Physiology has traditionally been divided between plant physiology and animal physiology but the principles of physiology are universal, no matter what particular organism is being studied. For example, what is learned about the physiology of yeast cells may also apply to human cells.

The field of animal physiology extends the tools and methods of human physiology to non-human animal species. Plant physiology also borrows techniques from both fields. Its scope of subjects is at least as diverse as the tree of lifeitself. Due to this diversity of subjects, research in animal physiology tends to concentrate on understanding how physiological traits changed throughout the evolutionary history of animals. Other major branches of scientific study that have grown out of physiology research include biochemistry, biophysics, paleobiology, biomechanics, and pharmacology.

History

Physiology can trace its roots back more than two millennia to classical antiquity, to the Greek and Indian medical traditions. The critical thinking of Aristotle and his emphasis on the relationship between structure and function marked the beginning of physiology in Greece, while Claudius Galenus (c. 126-199), known as Galen, was the first to use experiments to probe the function of the body. The ancient Indian books of Ayurveda, the Sushruta Samhita and Charaka Samhita, also had descriptions on human anatomy and physiology.

During the Middle Ages, the ancient Greek and Indian medical traditions were further developed by Muslim physicians, most notably Avicenna (980-1037), who introduced experimentation and quantification into the study of physiology in The Canon of Medicine. Many of the ancient physiological doctrines were eventually discredited by Ibn al-Nafis (1213-1288), who was the first physician to correctly describe the anatomy of the heart, the coronary circulation, the structure of the lungs, and the pulmonary circulation, for which he is considered the father of circulatory physiology.[1] He was also the first to describe the relationship between the lungs and the aeration of the blood, the cause of pulsation,[2] and an early concept of capillary circulation.[3]

Following from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance brought an increase of physiological research in the Western world that triggered the modern study of anatomy and physiology. Anatomist William Harvey described the circulatory system in the 17th century,[4] demonstrating the fruitful combination of close observations and careful experiments to learn about the functions of the body, which was fundamental to the development of experimental physiology. Herman Boerhaave is sometimes referred to as a father of physiology due to his exemplary teaching in Leiden and textbook 'Institutiones medicae' (1708).

In the 19th century, physiological knowledge began to accumulate at a rapid rate, most notably with Matthias Schleidan and Theodor Schwann's "Cell theory" which radically stated in 1838 that organisms are made up of units called cells, along with Claude Bernard's (1813-1878) many discoveries that ultimately led to his concept of, interieur (internal environment) which would later be taken up and championed as 'Homeostasis' by American physiologist Walter Cannon (1871-1945).

In the 20th century, biologists also became interested in how organisms other than human beings function, eventually spawning the fields of comparative physiology and ecophysiology[5] Major figues in these fields include Knut Schmidt-Nielsen and George Bartholomew. Most recently, evolutionary physiology has become a distinct subdiscipline.[6]

See also

References

  1. Chairman's Reflections (2004), "Traditional Medicine Among Gulf Arabs, Part II: Blood-letting", Heart Views 5 (2), p. 74-85 [80].
  2. Nahyan A. G. Fancy (2006), "Pulmonary Transit and Bodily Resurrection: The Interaction of Medicine, Philosophy and Religion in the Works of Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288)", pp. 224-229, Electronic Theses and Dissertations, University of Notre Dame. [1]
  3. Dr. Paul Ghalioungui (1982), "The West denies Ibn Al Nafis's contribution to the discovery of the circulation", Symposium on Ibn al-Nafis, Second International Conference on Islamic Medicine: Islamic Medical Organization, Kuwait (cf. The West denies Ibn Al Nafis's contribution to the discovery of the circulation, Encyclopedia of Islamic World)
  4. Zimmer, Carl. 2004. Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brain - and How It Changed the World. New York: Free Press.
  5. Feder, M. E., A. F. Bennett, W. W. Burggren, and R. B. Huey, eds. 1987. New directions in ecological physiology. Cambridge Univ. Press, New York.
  6. Garland, T., Jr., and P. A. Carter. 1994. Evolutionary physiology. Annual Review of Physiology 56:579-621. http://www.biology.ucr.edu/people/faculty/Garland/GarlCa94.pdf

External links

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