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Year : 1976  |  Volume : 22  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 103-104

The scope of modern anatomy

Seth G.S. Medical College and K.E.M. Hospital, Parel, Bombay-400 012, India

Correspondence Address:
K D Desai
Seth G.S. Medical College and K.E.M. Hospital, Parel, Bombay-400 012
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 1032823

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 :: Abstract 

And, indeed, there are several great men whom the study of human anatomy has not only lifted to the recognition of a God, but who are impelled to sing his praise observing with what admirable wisdom and singular providence he has perfected the arrangement of every part Ren Descartes

How to cite this article:
Desai K D. The scope of modern anatomy. J Postgrad Med 1976;22:103-4

How to cite this URL:
Desai K D. The scope of modern anatomy. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 1976 [cited 2023 Sep 25];22:103-4. Available from:

The renaissance in medicine came with the renaissance in anatomy. Vesalius, ably assisted by his friend Calcar who prepared 300 masterly anatomical plates, gave to the world in 1543 A.D., the most monumental of medical texts De Humani Corporis Fabrica, or Fabrica in short. With this, Vesalius ushered in an era of precise anatomical knowledge and the dispelling of a thousand pre-Vesalian myths, dogmas and superstitions. Anato­my provided the first A of the four pillar A's - Anatomy, Anesthesia, Asepsis, Antibiotics-on which the magnificent edifice of surgery was built, and enlarged to its present awe-inspiring splendour. The refinement in the study of compara­tive anatomy rendered the comprehen­sion of evolution easier, so that after a lapse of more than a century following the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, evolution has become a largely accepted fact. The microscopes brought morphologic dissection and description to cellular and ultracellular level, thanks to the pioneering work of Malpighi, Schlei­den, Schwann, Virchow and others. From cytology, science has now marched on to organellology, and soon we may talk only in terms of molecular anatomy, for condi­tions, normal and abnormal.

In modern times, Anatomy has come to mean what anatomists do. They are variously engaged in the study, teaching and research of things as gross as the ligaments of the knee joint and as esoteric as the bonding in the corneal collagen, the working and the synthesis of a gene, or the transplantation of the nucleus of an intestinal cell into the cytoplasm of an anucleated zygote. For example, not only did the new anatomy furnish a model of how a cell actually works but it also provided a picture of the molecular nature of the evolutionary processes. Anatomy journals, science journals, seminars and symposia bear testimony to this catholicity of the anatomist's interest.

In our country, the choice that an anatomist can make is limited by the nature of the resources available. The syllabus, undergraduate or postgraduate, that an anatomy teacher has to follow is governed by the various educational councils. The study of anatomy for him begins with the formation of fertilised ovum and continues through is growth and development till senescence sets in. In other words an anatomist has to learn developmental processes of embryo, foe­tus and child and anatomy of the adult and the aged. Acquisition and instruc­tions of anatomical knowledge at these age periods should necessarily be in dif­ferent environments - obstetric wards, paediatric out-patients, radiology and au­topsy rooms. Anatomy is a subject which needs to be studied in four dimensions rather than the conventional three. This would also emphasise that a study rang­ing from the fertilised ovum to the aged individual is a study of "dynamic chan­ges" of human morphology.

An anatomist of today has to widen his outlook and learn broad problems of human biology in its various aspects such as constitution, posture, variations, mal­formation, growth and development. Anatomy is said to be the architecture of physiological functions. It is the study of human biology rather than an anatomy of the dead.

The usefulness of the examination of the living body cannot be overemphasis­ed. The anatomist, therefore, has to leave, off and on, the dissection hall and make a sojourn in the hospital wards and clinical departments. He has to explore new avenues and evolve new techniques of presentation and methods of learning and teaching the basic discipline of human morphology. It is gratifying to note that of late the interest has turned towards methods of integrat­ing anatomical subjects with one another and correlating them with clinical sub­jects.

In the Western world, Human Anatomy, today, is at crossroads. Its increasing preoccupation with molecular biology and genetics, biochemistry and electron microscopy, cytochemistry, histochemistry and experimental animal biology is reflected in the research publi­cations in the journals of Anatomy, nearly eclipsing gross morphology. The latest edition of Gray's Anatomy from England is further proof of the diverse fields and disciplines in which anatomists today are engaged.

The contributions of the various branches of Anatomy to the principles and practice of medicine are already most impressive. More is yet to come. Ernst Boris Chain, the Nobel laureate, has remarked that a solution to such killer problems as cancer is more likely to come from departments not directly dealing with the problem. It is not unlikely that a department of Anatomy would have its share in this crowning achievement.


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Online since 12th February '04
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Official Publication of the Staff Society of the Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, India
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