Anatomy ( from the Greek ἀνά Ana "on " and τομή tomé "cut" ) is a branch of morphology. It is in medicine and human biology ( Anthropotomie ), Zoology ( Zootomie ) and botany ( Phytotomie ) the doctrine of the structure of organisms.

Are considered shape, location and structure of body parts, organs, tissues or cells. The pathological anatomy deals with diseased body parts. Microscopic anatomy is concerned with the finer biological structures up to the molecular level and builds on the molecular biology. The classic anatomy uses a standardized nomenclature that is based on the Latin and Greek language.


The first preserved today anatomical evidence is found in prehistoric cave paintings. It is surprising that these people have already seized of the trepanation of skulls, probably because neither the cave paintings still opening the skull pursued a medical purpose.

More specific and more extensive descriptions are for the first time ( esp. about the broken bones and over the joints ) obtained from some of the writings of the Corpus Hippocraticum, in the Hippocratic medicine human physiology had a greater significance than the anatomy. Galen summed up in the 2nd century AD, the medical knowledge of Hippocrates and other physicians systematically together.

After the anatomy made ​​no progress in the Middle Ages, shook Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564), the centuries hardly ever questioned assumptions and beliefs, which many of his colleagues rebelled. His work revolutionized the medicine of his time and makes him the founder of modern anatomy.

The anatomy has since enjoyed a high status in the visual arts one, the sections on humans and animals ( vivisection or autopsy ) were part of the basic training of the students. Artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Dürer and da Vinci (1452-1519) took years to the study of the human body, the latter in its scientific accuracy surpassed the 62 years later -born Vesalius. The close collaboration between artists and anatomists gave rise to medical writings of exceptionally high quality.

During the Enlightenment, was erected anatomical theater, the show had a high value addition to the scientific value.

Work areas

Macroscopic Anatomy

The macroscopic anatomy is concerned with the structure of humans, animals or plants, with all things that can be seen with the naked eye. Noted here are not only externally visible structures, but especially the structures that are observed after up and cutting apart the body.

By type of approach, the macroscopic anatomy is divided into:

  • The description or descriptive anatomy is probably the most antiquated way of conveying the anatomy. For her, the individual structures of the body are merely arranged in terms of their physical appearance. Functional, topographical and systematic aspects are not taken into account. With all the disadvantages but also the modern mediated Anatomy always has a descriptive content, since a doctor must be able to detect pathological changes in an organ.
  • Systematic anatomy grouped the individual structures of the body to functionally - related organ systems. Although this allows a certain classification, and facilitates the learning, but also has disadvantages. Topographic aspects, as they must deal with in everyday clinical practice, the physician / veterinarian will not be considered. In addition, all organ systems are also linked to each other again, the skin has, for example, blood vessels, nerves, cells of the immune system, etc.
  • The topographic anatomy describes the structures of the body according to their spatial location relationships to each other ( topos: Greek " place "). The big advantage is surely the fact that the doctor / veterinarian acquires a very application-oriented knowledge. It is, for example, for a hand surgeon not only important at what major organ system a structure belongs, he must especially know where nerves, blood vessels or tendons pass exactly. Also for the application of imaging techniques are topographically - anatomical knowledge is of great importance. The topographic anatomy uses standard position and directional terms that are independent of the current body position and instead uses relative coordinates. Functional relationships can be developed not only for structural and topographical peculiarities of the particular structure of physical shape and organs, but especially from the somatotopic structure of the nervous tissue.
  • Comparative anatomy studies the physique of different animal species. Already the classical biological systematics based on structural similarities and differences for the classification of the rich to the species, but increasingly also genetic differences in the classification are included. With the confrontation and the comparison of different animal species sometimes leave observations on one species in the first point. In addition, this comparison provides the ability to recognize certain structural principles and thus create the basis for a joint nomination. The physician, anatomist and physiologist Hermann Friedrich Stannius (1808-1883) from Rostock introduced the concept Zootomie, which coincides almost entirely with the concept of comparative anatomy.

Microscopic Anatomy

For the study of anatomical structures below the visible with the naked eye region, the microscopic anatomy (histology ) is responsible. It describes the fine structure of organs, tissues and cells.


The embryology describes the origin of the anatomical structures during embryonic development. Based on the legislative history is diverse topographical and functional relationships can be recognized. Also for understanding the origin of malformations are embryological knowledge indispensable.

Tasks in medical education

An important area of the anatomy is the provision of instructional materials for medical training. This is done in Präparierkursen and exercises, lecture events, anatomical collections, anatomical museums, comparative anatomical collections or anatomical teaching collections.

The same applies to the creation of anatomical textbooks and atlases, where still fine drawings ( line drawings ) have their educational significance.