AskDefine | Define physiology

Dictionary Definition



1 the branch of the biological sciences dealing with the functioning of organisms
2 processes and functions of an organism

User Contributed Dictionary



Greek physis, "nature" and logos, "word"


  • (UK) /ˌfɪziˈɒləʤi/, /%fIzi"Ql@dZi/
  • (US) /ˌfɪziˈɑːləʤi/, /%fIzi"A:l@dZi/


  1. A branch of biology that deals with the functions and activities of life or of living matter (as organs, tissues, or cells) and of the physical and chemical phenomena involved.
  2. The study and description of natural objects; natural science.

Related terms


branch of biology

Extensive Definition

Physiology (from Greek: φυσις, physis, “nature, origin”; and λόγος, logos, "speech" lit. "to talk about the nature (of things)") is the study of the mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions of living organisms.
Physiology has traditionally been divided between plant physiology and animal physiology but the principles of physiology are universal, no matter what particular organism is being studied. For example, what is learned about the physiology of yeast cells may also apply to human cells.
The field of animal physiology extends the tools and methods of human physiology to non-human animal species. Plant physiology also borrows techniques from both fields. Its scope of subjects is at least as diverse as the tree of life itself. Due to this diversity of subjects, research in animal physiology tends to concentrate on understanding how physiological traits changed throughout the evolutionary history of animals. Other major branches of scientific study that have grown out of physiology research include biochemistry, biophysics, paleobiology, biomechanics, and pharmacology.


Physiology can trace its roots back more than two millennia to classical antiquity, to the Greek and Indian medical traditions. The critical thinking of Aristotle and his emphasis on the relationship between structure and function marked the beginning of physiology in Greece, while Claudius Galenus (c. 126-199), known as Galen, was the first to use experiments to probe the function of the body. The ancient Indian books of Ayurveda, the Sushruta Samhita and Charaka Samhita, also had descriptions on human anatomy and physiology.
During the Middle Ages, the ancient Greek and Indian medical traditions were further developed by Muslim physicians, most notably Avicenna (980-1037), who introduced experimentation and quantification into the study of physiology in The Canon of Medicine. Many of the ancient physiological doctrines were eventually discredited by Ibn al-Nafis (1213-1288), who was the first physician to correctly describe the anatomy of the heart, the coronary circulation, the structure of the lungs, and the pulmonary circulation, for which he is considered the father of circulatory physiology. He was also the first to describe the relationship between the lungs and the aeration of the blood, the cause of pulsation, and an early concept of capillary circulation.
Following from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance brought an increase of physiological research in the Western world that triggered the modern study of anatomy and physiology. Anatomist William Harvey described the circulatory system in the 17th century, demonstrating the fruitful combination of close observations and careful experiments to learn about the functions of the body, which was fundamental to the development of experimental physiology. Herman Boerhaave is sometimes referred to as a father of physiology due to his exemplary teaching in Leiden and textbook 'Institutiones medicae' (1708).
In the 19th century, physiological knowledge began to accumulate at a rapid rate, most notably with Matthias Schleidan and Theodor Schwann's "Cell theory" which radically stated in 1838 that organisms are made up of units called cells, along with Claude Bernard's (1813-1878) many discoveries that ultimately led to his concept of, interieur (internal environment) which would later be taken up and championed as Homeostasis by American physiologist Walter Cannon (1871-1945).
In the 20th century, biologists also became interested in how organisms other than human beings function, eventually spawning the fields of comparative physiology and ecophysiology Major figures in these fields include Knut Schmidt-Nielsen and George Bartholomew. Most recently, evolutionary physiology has become a distinct subdiscipline.

See also


physiology in Arabic: فيزيولوجيا
physiology in Asturian: Fisioloxía
physiology in Bengali: শারীরবৃত্ত
physiology in Bosnian: Fiziologija
physiology in Bulgarian: Физиология
physiology in Catalan: Fisiologia
physiology in Czech: Fyziologie
physiology in Danish: Fysiologi
physiology in German: Physiologie
physiology in Estonian: Füsioloogia
physiology in Modern Greek (1453-): Φυσιολογία (βιολογία)
physiology in Spanish: Fisiología
physiology in Esperanto: Fiziologio
physiology in Persian: فیزیولوژی
physiology in French: Physiologie
physiology in Western Frisian: Fysiology
physiology in Galician: Fisioloxía
physiology in Korean: 생리학
physiology in Croatian: Fiziologija
physiology in Indonesian: Fisiologi
physiology in Ido: Fiziologio
physiology in Icelandic: Lífeðlisfræði
physiology in Italian: Fisiologia
physiology in Hebrew: פיזיולוגיה
physiology in Georgian: ფიზიოლოგია
physiology in Kurdish: Erkzanist
physiology in Latin: Physiologia
physiology in Latvian: Fizioloģija
physiology in Lithuanian: Fiziologija
physiology in Hungarian: Élettan
physiology in Macedonian: Физиологија
physiology in Malay (macrolanguage): Fisiologi
physiology in Dutch: Fysiologie
physiology in Japanese: 生理学
physiology in Norwegian: Fysiologi
physiology in Norwegian Nynorsk: Fysiologi
physiology in Novial: Fisiologia
physiology in Occitan (post 1500): Fisiologia
physiology in Polish: Fizjologia
physiology in Portuguese: Fisiologia
physiology in Romanian: Fiziologie
physiology in Russian: Физиология
physiology in Sicilian: Fisioluggìa
physiology in Simple English: Physiology
physiology in Slovak: Fyziológia
physiology in Slovenian: Fiziologija
physiology in Serbian: Физиологија
physiology in Serbo-Croatian: Fiziologija
physiology in Finnish: Fysiologia
physiology in Swedish: Fysiologi
physiology in Tagalog: Pisyolohiya
physiology in Thai: สรีรวิทยา
physiology in Vietnamese: Sinh lý học
physiology in Tajik: Физиология
physiology in Turkish: Fizyoloji
physiology in Ukrainian: Фізіологія
physiology in Urdu: فعلیات
physiology in Chinese: 生理学

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