It is strongly believed by medical experts and historians that anatomy is the oldest medical science. Anatomy could be defined as the scientific study of the structure of animals, plants, and human beings. The term “anatomy” hails from the Greek words meaning “to cut up”, since knowledge of anatomy was obtained centuries ago through dissection. Human anatomy comprises the study of the structure of the muscles, blood vessels, skeleton, nerves and the various organs of our body. A thorough knowledge of the structure or layout pattern of the human body is vital for a detailed understanding of its function in health as well as disease.
Hundreds of years ago, people of almost all religions and beliefs strongly believed that the dead body was sacred and dissecting it or cutting it was considered a sacrilege. It was only after 400 B.C. that the Greeks gave the nod for occasional dissections. Centuries later – in the A.D. 100’s - , the physician Galen did manage to describe many structures of the human anatomy. But, his inferences were mainly based on the dissections of animals and his treatment of injured gladiators. It was only after A.D. 1300 that the dissection and anatomy earned recognition as part of medical education in Western Europe and a restricted number of human dissections was permitted each year.
In the year 1543, Andreas Vasilius published his masterpiece on anatomy that was purely based on dissections. It is since then that steady progress in human anatomy became visible and discoveries like that of William Harvey on blood circulation could become possible. Because of extensive knowledge of the human anatomy, the surgeon is able to operate on any part of the human body.
It is mandatory for all medical doctors, more so surgeons – and medical functionaries working in certain diagnostic specialties -, to know in depth, the structure of that part of the body which they have to treat. Not just doctors, even physical education teachers and physiotherapists also need to know how the human body is built. These days, physical fitness trainers are also expected to know the workings and structure of the various parts of the human body, to be able to give appropriate instructions to concerned trainees. The basic parts of human anatomy are head and neck, thorax, upper limb, abdomen, back (spine and its parts), pelvis and perineum, and lower limb.
Human anatomy largely comprises gross anatomy and microscopic anatomy. Gross anatomy may be defined as the study of anatomical structures as seen by the naked eye. Microscopic anatomy, as the name suggests, is the study of extremely small anatomical structures seen through microscopes, including histology and cytology. Because the structure of the human body is very complex, anatomy is classified by levels, right from the tiniest component of cells to the largest organ and their correlation with other organs.
Normally, medical professionals like doctors, nurses, dentists, paramedics, physiotherapists and radiographers and students of specific biological sciences are asked to learn gross anatomy and microscopic anatomy from text books, anatomical models, skeletons, skeletons, diagrams, tutorials and lectures. The study of histology or microscopic anatomy is made easy through practical experience by examining histological slides or preparations under a microscope. Also, medical and dental students learn all about human anatomy by dissecting and inspecting cadavers or dead human bodies.