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Anatomy – Overview, Types and Application

Last Updated : 22 Nov, 2023
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Anatomy is the identification as well as the description of a living thing’s structural components. It falls under the fields of medicine and biology. Anatomy is the study of the body, its components, and its functions. This expression comes from the Greek verb “anatome,” which means “to cut open, to dissect.” The practice of medicine and other health-related fields requires an extensive knowledge of anatomy.


What is Anatomy?

A field of study that studies the relationships, locations, and purposes of the body’s components as well as their structural composition is called anatomy. Human dissection has historically and still been the primary method used to obtain knowledge about human anatomy. This allows scientists to literally observe how the body is put together, the relationships between different parts, and how the body operates as a whole. For example, specific muscles of the upper limb and their anatomical composition.

Classification of Anatomy

Anatomy is classified into three categories:

  • Human Anatomy: The study of the physical structure of the human body is known as human anatomy. It studies the relationships, locations, and components of the human body as well as their structural composition.
  • Plant Anatomy: The study of plant tissues and cell structures is known as plant anatomy. The structures that are visible under a strong light or electron microscope are usually studied in plant anatomy. It is also known as Phytotomy.
  • Animal Anatomy. The scientific study of the cellular, organ, tissue, and body systems of both small and big animals, as well as their relationship to disease, physiologic function, and therapeutic management, is the main focus of animal anatomy It is also known as Zootomy.


Types of Anatomy

Anatomy is divided into two categories:

  • Macroscopic or Gross Anatomy: The study of anatomical aspects of the organs or systems that are visible to the unaided eye is known as macroscopic anatomy. It includes elements like the body’s internal organs and external features.
  • Microscopic Anatomy: The microscopic components (tissues and cells) that constitute the larger structures are the focus of this area of anatomy. Therefore, the study of these structures in microscopic anatomy is dependent upon the use of microscopes.

Macroscopic or Gross Anatomy

Anatomical characteristics that are visible to the unaided eye are referred to as macroscopic or gross anatomy. The main point is that information may be obtained solely by using eyes.

The three further categories of macroscopic or gross anatomy are:

  • Surface Anatomy (the outside body): The external anatomical features that may be seen without dissection are the focus of surface anatomy. It is also known as superficial anatomy,
  • Regional Anatomy (certain bodily areas): The study of specific interior or external body regions and the interactions and cooperation between various body parts is known as regional anatomy.
  • Systemic Anatomy (particular organ systems): The study of different organ systems and their structures, such as the respiratory or digestive systems, is known as systemic anatomy.

Microscopic Anatomy

The study of tiny components that combine to generate larger structures at the level of tissues or cells is known as microscopic anatomy. Thus, the use of microscopes is essential to the study of microscopic anatomy. It is further separated into two categories: histology (tissue) and cytology (cells).

  • Histology: The scientific field of histology examines the microscopic structure of living tissues. It looks at the relationships that exist between structure and function. Knowing the causes of some diseases and whether or not a treatment has been effective is helpful.
  • Cytology: Further investigation is done by cytology, which examines particular cell types, frequently from fluid specimens. It is mostly used for the detection of prenatal anomalies, the diagnosis of particular infectious agents, and cancer screening, particularly cervical cancer (pap smear).

Application of Anatomy

The following are some of the applications of both microscopic and macroscopic anatomy:

Application of Microscopic Anatomy

Application of microscopic anatomy or histology is as follows:

  • To describe the microstructures of biological cells and tissues, histology slides are frequently utilized.
  • Tissue sample analysis can provide important information about any underlying illness or infection.
  • Very useful for determining the precise cause of death during postmortems.
  • Helpful in paleontology, particularly for fossil identification.
  • Utilized in biopsies and the diagnosis of specific cancer cells.
  • Beneficial in additional life science fields.

Application of Macroscopic Anatomy

Application of Macroscopic or Gross Anatomy is as follows:

  • Gross anatomy is used to explore the various organs in depth.
  • Utilized in endoscopy, a procedure in which a tube with a camera attached is placed into the body cavity of an organism.
  • It is applied in Angiography, a procedure that visualizes the flow of blood throughout the human body by injecting an opaque dye into blood arteries.
  • Both Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and X-rays are used to study the internal organs and structures of living things.

Branches of Anatomy

There are 4 branches of Anatomy. They are as follows:


The study of structures that form between the fertilized egg and the eighth week of pregnancy is known as embryology. It also examines congenital conditions that manifest prior to birth (teratology) and the development of gametes, or sex cells.

Developmental Anatomy

It focuses on the development of structures from the fertilized egg to the adult form and examines a wider temporal range.

Radiographic Anatomy

As the name suggests, it examines body structures that are accessible for examination with X-rays (radiographs or CT scans).

Pathological Anatomy

It examines both microscopic and macroscopic alterations brought on by illness. It is beneficial to observe the harm a particular illness produces and identify its precise causes.

FAQs – Anatomy

1. What is the Definition of Anatomy?

Anatomy is a branch of the biological sciences that deals with identifying and characterizing living things’ body structures. In its most basic definition, gross anatomy is the study of the primary body structures through dissection and observation, and it exclusively refers to the human body.

2. What are the 4 Types of Anatomy?

The three categories of gross anatomy are surface anatomy, which refers to the body’s exterior; regional anatomy, which refers to certain bodily areas; and systemic anatomy, which refers to particular organ systems. Histology, which studies tissues, and cytology, which studies cells, are the two subdisciplines of microscopic anatomy.

3. Who is the Father of Anatomy?

Herophilus is referred to be the Father of Anatomy, much like Hippocrates is known as the Father of Medicine. The majority would suggest that he was the best anatomist of the past, if not all time. Vesalius, who lived in the sixteenth century A.D., is the only one who might dispute his estimate.

4. Why is it called Anatomy?

The Greek words “ana,” which means “up,” and “tome,” which means “a cutting,” are the origin of the word “anatomy.” Anatomy research has typically required dissecting or chopping apart living things. Dissection is no longer necessary because imaging technology can now teach us a lot about how the insides of bodies function.

5. Why Study Anatomy?

In medical and nursing school, anatomy is one of the most important and well-known courses. No doctor, nurse, or physician can operate in the medical field or perform their duties effectively without having studied this fundamental subject.