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Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Modern biology is a vast and eclectic field, composed of many branches and subdisciplines. However, despite the broad scope of biology, there are certain general and unifying concepts within it which govern all study and research, consolidating it into single, coherent field. Biology generally recognizes the cell as the basic unit of life, genes as the basic unit of heredity, and evolution as the engine that propels the synthesis and creation of new species. It is also understood today that all organisms survive by consuming and transforming energy and by regulating their internal environment to maintain a stable and vital condition.
Botany is a branch of Biology that deals with plants, including the study of the structure, properties, and biochemical processes of all forms of plant life, as well as plant classification, plant diseases, and the interactions of plants with their physical environment. The science of botany traces back to the ancient Greco-Roman world but recieved its modern impetus in Europe in the 16th century, mainly through the work of physicians and herbalists, who began to observe plants seriously to identify those useful in medicine. Today the principal brances of botanical study are morphology, physiology, ecology, and systematics (the identification and ranking of all plants). Subdisciplines include bryology (the study of mosses and liverworts), pteridology (the study of ferns and their relatives), paleobotany (the study of fossil plants), and palynology (the study of modern and fossil pollen and spores).
Zoology is a branch of Biology concerned with members of the animal kingdom and with animal life in general. The science originated in the works of Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Pliny. The contributions of individuals such as William Harvey (the circulation of blood), Carolus Linnaeus (system of nomenclature), Geroges-Louis de Buffon (natural history), Georges Cuvier (comparative anatomy), and Claude Bernard (homeostasis) greatly advanced the field. The 1859 publiication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was a major turning point. Since that time, the study of genetics has become essential in zoological studies.
Microbiology is the scientific study of microorganisms, a diverse group of simple life-forms including protozoans, algae, molds, bacteria, and viruses. Microbiology is concerned with the structure, function, and classification of these organisms and with ways of controlling and using their activities. Its foundations were established in the later 19th century, with the work of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch. Since then, many disease-casuing microorganisms have been identified and means of controlling their harmful effects have been developed. In addition, means of channeling the activities of various microorganisms to benefit medicine, industry, and agriculture have been discovered. The most popular example, molds, for example, produce anti-biotics, like penicillin.
A 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 area—including the microtome, which slices specimens into extremely thin sections, and staining—led 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.
Study of the functioning of living organisms or their constituent tissues or cells. Physiology was usually considered separately from anatomy until the development of high-powered microscopes made it clear that structure and function were inseparable at the cellular and molecular level. An understanding of biochemistry is fundamental to physiology. Physiological processes are dynamic; cells change their function in response to changes in the composition of their local environment, and the organism responds to alterations in both its internal and external environment. Many physiological reactions are aimed at preserving a constant physical and chemical internal environment (homeostasis).