The science of bodily structure; structure as discovered by dissection. The English Word “anatomy” has been borrowed from Greek terms referring to cutting and dissection. In scientific use,however, anatomy refers to the knowledge derived from those activities and not to the procedures themselves. The particular type of knowledge is the definition of the structure of organized beings,animal or plant.
The use of the term (originally anothomia) to convey this meaning dates to the 14th century. Structural information has traditionally been obtained by cutting, which includes bothdissection and microtomy. In practice, modern investigation in the field of anatomy has involved much more than the mere description of structure and encompasses an understanding of function. In contrastto other disciplines, particularly that of physiology, however, anatomy seeks to use structure as a tool with which to comprehend function. It differs from physiology in the emphasis that is placed inanatomy on the parameter of distance, or spatial relation, as opposed to the parameter of time.
Recently, practitioners in the field of anatomy have suffered from the common tendency, even amongbiological scientists who should know better, to use the term anatomy to mean gross human anatomy. To many people the very Word itself, “anatomy”, conveys an image of a foul-smelling room, filled whitthe cold, still bodies of no longer living human beings, being worked upon by students who are passing through a ritual of admission to the medical profession. Anatomy, to these people, implies a hugebody of knowledge, little of which remains to be discovered, but which needs instead to be gleaned from overly large tome, and memorized.
In response to this unfortunate Word association,departments of anatomy in many universities have changed their names. Popular new titles include anatomy and cell biology, anatomy and neurobiology (or the reverse), and structure biology. These new titles...