What is Anatomy?

Anatomy is a branch of science that deals with the body structures of various living organisms as revealed by dissection.

Anatomy could be classified into:

  1. Human anatomy
  2. Plant anatomy (phytotomy)
  3. Animal anatomy (zootomy)


The word anatomy is derived from the Greek word “anatomÄ“”, where “ana” means “up” and “tome” means to “cutting.” Originally, anatomy was first learnt by cutting up corpses, hence the name “anatomy.”

As mentioned above, Anatomy was primarily learnt through dissection. The word ‘Anatomy’ and ‘dissection’ have virtually the same meaning in Greek and Latin. Besides the fact that both the words have the same source, anatomy has a broad discipline of its own and the word “dissection” is completely removed.

Physiology, on the other hand, deals with the functions and processes of the human body. It is distinctly different from anatomy as the latter deals specifically about the structure of the organism.

Anatomy is classified into:

  1. Microscopic Anatomy (Histology)
  2. Gross Anatomy (Macroscopic anatomy).

Microscopic and Gross Anatomy

Microscopic Anatomy (Histology)

Also known as histology, microscopic anatomy is the study of tissues and cells as discerned by a microscope. The individuals who specialize in this study are called histologists. The process involves marking and dividing tissues and cells into sections to be viewed under a microscope.

The tissues are dissected into thin slices so that they could be clearly examined. Stains are added to these dissected tissues to enhance visibility and highlight important structures. It is useful to examine and compare different types of organisms, their structures and different stages of the cell cycle.

Application of Histology

  1. Histology slides are often used to explain the microstructures of biological tissues and cells.
  2. Analysis of tissue samples can reveal crucial information about any underlying infection or a disease.
  3. Very helpful in during post-mortems as it can pinpoint the exact cause of death.
  4. Useful in palaeontology, especially to identify fossils.
  5. Used in diagnosing certain cancer cells and biopsies.
  6. Useful in other life science domains.

Gross Anatomy

Also known as topographical anatomy, gross anatomy is defined as the study of an organism’s structures which are visible to the naked eye. The main objective of anatomy is to obtain complete information about the structural organization of an organism.

Application of Gross Anatomy:

  1. Gross anatomy is used for studying in detail about the different organs.
  2. Used in endoscopy, where a tube having a camera at the end is inserted into an organism’s body cavity.
  3. It is used in angiography, where an opaque dye is injected into the blood vessels to view the circulatory system.
  4. The internal structures and organs of living beings are studied by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-rays.

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Practise This Question

Identify the gender of cockroach basing on the following characters in the image (i) and (ii)