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Physiology is a fundamental scientific discipline that stems from the Ancient Greek words φύσις (physis), which translates to 'nature or origin', and -λογία (-logia), meaning 'study of'.[1] This subject explores the functional aspects of living systems. It is concerned with the mechanisms through which organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical and physical processes essential for life. Due to the vast scope of this discipline, it branches further into specialized areas such as human physiology, plant physiology, cellular physiology, bacterial physiology, and viral physiology.

National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (NHEERL) - Human Studies Division

Historical Overview[edit | edit source]

Physiology's origins can be traced back to the times of Hippocrates (around 420 BC), who is often honored as the 'father of medicine'.[2] The profound thoughts of Aristotle about the interconnection between structure and function set the cornerstone for physiology in Ancient Greece. Claudius Galenus, also known as Galen (c. 126–199 AD), made significant strides in experimental physiology by conducting experiments to examine body functions.

The term "physiology" was introduced by the French physician Jean Fernel in 1525, representing a monumental evolution in this field.

The 19th century was a golden period for physiology, marked by the proposal of the Cell Theory by Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann in 1838, which radically suggested that organisms are made up of entities known as cells. Further advancements were made by Claude Bernard (1813–1878), leading to his notion of milieu interieur (internal environment). This concept was later accepted and popularized as "homeostasis" by the American physiologist Walter Cannon.

In the subsequent century, there was a heightened interest in understanding the functioning of organisms beyond humans. This interest birthed the fields of comparative physiology and ecophysiology. Noteworthy contributors to these areas include Knut Schmidt-Nielsen and George Bartholomew. Evolutionary physiology has also recently emerged as a distinguished sub-discipline.

Human Physiology[edit | edit source]

Human physiology delves deep into the understanding of processes that sustain life and support functionality in the human body. Utilizing scientific techniques, it studies the mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions of humans, their organs, and the cells they consist of. The main emphasis is on the organ and system levels, with the endocrine and nervous systems taking central roles in receiving and conveying signals that amalgamate function in animals. Homeostasis, the balance of steady internal physical and chemical conditions maintained by living entities, is a crucial component of such interactions in both flora and fauna.

Recognition in Physiology[edit | edit source]

The pinnacle of recognition in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Since 1901, it has been bestowed by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Also see[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. [1]
  2. Hippocrates (1978). "On Ancient Medicine". In Jonathan Chadwick, N.G. Wilson (ed.). Hippocrates. Loeb Classical Library. 1. trans. W.H.S. Jones. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 168–169.
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