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Biological field that deals with bodily structures as revealed by dissection. Herophilus first laid the factual groundwork for gross anatomy, the study of structures large enough to see without a microscope. Galen's ideas were the authority for anatomy in Europe until Andreas Vesalius's methods placed it on a firm foundation of observed fact. The microscope permitted the discovery of tiny structures (e.g., capillaries and cells), the subject of microscopic anatomy. Crucial advances in this areaincluding the microtome, which slices specimens into extremely thin sections, and stainingled to the new fields of cytology and histology. Electron microscopy opened up the study of subcellular structures, and X-ray diffraction gave rise to the new subspecialty of molecular anatomy. Comparative anatomy compares similar structures in different animals to see how they have changed with evolution.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on anatomy, visit Britannica.com.