What is physiology History and theoretical and practical bases

Over the centuries, humans have tried to find an explanation for what is going on around us and we have wanted to understand how our bodies work.

Understanding the functioning of living organs and the why of their different parts (cells, muscles, joints, etc.) has great applications. For example, a better knowledge of cancer cells has been the key to medicine and is necessary to improve our health. Also, knowing what the role of our muscles is can help us in athletic performance or recovery from injury.

Faced with this need to know, physiology was born: It is a sub-discipline of biology that studies the functions and anatomy of living systems.

    History of physiology

    The word physiology comes from the Greek φυσις, “physis”, which refers to the term “nature”, and λογος, “logos”, which means knowledge.

    1. Old and middle age

    Its origins date back to the 5th century BC, In the time of Hippocrates, the father of medicine, born in Greece in 460 BC He is known for his theory of humor and his great contributions to the medical sciences. However, Aristotle’s critical thinking and his ideas about the relationship between structure and function, as well as Galen’s interest in experimentation, also contributed to the development of this biological science.

    The Middle Ages were also a crucial period in the development of physiology with the contributions of the Arabs, who incorporated the Greek and Indian knowledge of that time. Some figures of the time were very important, such as Avicenna and Ibn al-Nafis, the latter known as the father of circulatory physiology (correctly describe the anatomy of the heart, the structure of the lungs and the circulation on their own) .

    2. Modern and contemporary era

    The Renaissance is known to be the era of physiological research in the Western worldSince then, the modern study of this discipline has been activated. The work of Andreas Vesalio is considered very influential and this author is commonly referred to as the founder of human anatomy, later William Harvey, as a developer of experimental physiology, and Herman Boerhaave, as the founder of education. clinical, has allowed the progress of physiological knowledge and its dissemination in academic circles.

    This knowledge continued to accumulate over the centuries, particularly from the 19th century onwards when the American Association of Physiology was founded and when the cell theory of Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann appeared. Other authors such as Ivan Pavlov also made crucial discoveries for other disciplines such as psychology or education.

    In the twentieth century, evolutionary physiology became a different discipline. Technological advances in recent decades have enabled this science to increase its discoveries and contributions to humanity.

    Basics of physiology

    The structure and life of living things are more complex than the sum of the separate parts (cells, tissues, organs, etc.). For this reason, physiology supports the foundations of other disciplines related to biology:

    • anatomy: Study bones, muscles, joints, etc.

    • Biophysics: It focuses on the study of the physical principles present in the processes of living things.

    • genetic: Refers to the study of hereditary phenomena which are transmitted from one generation to another.

    • Biochemistry: This science is responsible for the study of the chemical composition of living organisms.

    • Biomechanics: Studies the mechanical forces and structures that act and are present in living things.

    Types of physiology

    Given the number of fields covered by physiology, it is possible to classify this discipline into different specialties:

    1. Plant physiology

    Study of physiological components that affect plants and plants, such as photosynthesis, plant nutrition and reproduction, or the functions of plant hormones.

    2. Animal physiology

    It is the branch of physiology responsible for the biological study of animal species.

    3. Human physiology

    This branch of physiology belongs to animal physiology, but focuses on the study of the human body and its various parts and functions.

    4. General physiology

    The study of plant physiology and animal physiology is called general physiology.

    5. Comparative physiology

    It aims to compare the functioning and structures of animals and humans.

    6. Cell physiology

    Focused on the study of the functions and anatomy of cells and how they pick up stimuli and process information, reproduce and develop, feed, etc.

    7.physiological psychology

    It is responsible for the study of structures, elements and biological processes related to mental life and normal or pathological behavior.

    Other types of physiology

    The above classification is the most important, however, there are other types of physiology according to different authors.

    • embryonic physiology: As the name suggests, his study revolves around the comparison of different types of animal embryos in general.

    • Auditory physiology: It is necessary to study the anatomy and physiology of the auditory system.

    • cardiac physiology: She is in charge of studying the anatomy and functioning of the heart.

    • renal physiology: He studies the functioning and the structure of the kidneys and in particular of the nephron, the basic functional unit of this organ.

    • Tissue physiology: It is linked to cell physiology because tissues are junctions of cells that work together to perform a specific task

    • Physiology of vision: Study the anatomy and functions of the eye.

    • Reproductive physiology: He is responsible for studying the mechanisms linked to the reproduction of living organisms.

    • vascular physiology: Studies the structures and functions performed by veins, arteries and capillaries.


    Physiology can be classified into different types; however, they all refer to general physiology: a science closely linked to Biology which has made it possible to understand the functioning of our organism, that of other animals, Plants and microorganisms.

    Discoveries in physiology were essential for the development of other disciplines such as medicine, psychology or sports training.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Marieb, EN Essentials of Human Physiology and Anatomy. 10th edition, Benjamin Cummings, 2012.
    • Widmaier, EP, Raff, H., Strang, KT Vander Human Physiology. 11.ª Edition, McGraw-Cerro, 2009.
    • Withers, Comparative Animal Physiology PC. Saunders University Publishing House, New York, 1992.

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