Anatomy and Physiology Through Time

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Anatomy and Physiology Through Time

Anatomy: The study of the structure of living things, in this case human beings.

Physiology: The study of how the body works.

Prehistoric Times

In Prehistoric times people knew virtually nothing about anatomy or physiology, they believed virtually all illness and disease was caused by the 'spirits'. With the exception of obvious injury, ie. a broken bone. They could successfully set broken bones, probably using mud as a cast, as the Aborigines did.

Egyptian Times

In the Egyptian times, knowledge about anatomy improved, largely as a result of the religious practice of mummification, which meant they removed some organs like the liver, and the heart, and put them into canopic jars. Nevertheless, embalming had to take place quickly, since it was very hot, and their beliefs forbade them from dissecting the removed organs, as they believed they would be needed in the next life.

Although they knew about the heart, and liver, brains, and lungs, they didn't understand how they worked, but they did formulate the 'Channel' theory. They believed that blood, air and water travelled through over 40 channels, and that when these channels became blocked, people became ill. This was a step forward, in the sense they were starting to look at natural causes of disease, but the theory was majorely flawed, they didn't distinguish between veins and intestines, they thought they were all connected. They also believed that the Gods could block the channels.

Also, don't forget that most of their beliefs for the cause of disease still relied on the Gods, and spirits as the cause of disease.

Greek Times

In the Greek times, anatomy continued to move forward. As soon as the Greeks decided that the body was not a 'temple of the Gods', a few doctors began to work on dissection, although it was still frowned upon. In fact at Alexandria, some doctors had begun to carry out dissections on criminals, that were still alive - this is known as vivisection. This led some doctors to make some major breakthroughs, for example Herophilus discovered that the brain not the heart controlled the body, and Erasistratus discovered that the heart was some kind of pump.

However, unfortunately, many of these ideas were overlooked, especially the discovery made by Erasistratus. However, the Greeks did come up with a very important idea on physiology, the theory of the 'Four Humours'. Hippocrates believed that everything in the world was made up of the four elements, when these elements or 'humours' became out of balance, people became sick. He also linked each of the four humours to one of the four seasons.

Although this theory was obviously incorrect, it was important, because it suggested that people had started to question causes of disease, instead of simply blaming the gods, although, throughout Greek times, the Asclepeia remained an important aspect of medical care. But Hippocrates told his students that all illness could be treated without magic - natural cures.

It was also important,


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