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Throughout the centuries, human beings have tried to find an explanation for what is happening around us and have wanted to understand how our bodies work on Physiology bases.

Understanding the functioning of living organs and the reasons for their different parts (cells, muscles, joints, etc.), have great applications. For example, a greater knowledge of cancer cells has been key for Medicine and is necessary to improve our health. Also, knowing what the role of our muscles is can help us in sports performance or recovery from injuries.

Faced with this need for knowledge, physiology was born: it is a subdiscipline of Biology that studies the functions and Anatomy of living systems.

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History of Physiology

The word Physiology comes from the Greek φυσις, “physis”, which refers to the term “nature”, and λογος, “logos”, which means knowledge.

  1. Ancient and middle ages

Its origins date back to the 5th century BC, to the time of Hippocrates, the father of Medicine, who was born in Greece in 460 BC. He is known for his Theory of Humors and his great contributions to the medical sciences. However, Aristotle’s critical thinking and his ideas of the relationship between structure and function, as well as Galen’s interest in experimenting, were also determining factors in the development of this biological science.

The Middle Ages was also a crucial period in the development of Physiology with contributions from the Arabs, who integrated the Greek and Indian knowledge of those times. Some characters of the time were very important, such as Avicenna and Ibn al-Nafis, the latter known as the father of circulatory physiology (correctly described the Anatomy of the heart, the structure of the lungs and the circulation of the themselves).

  1. Modern and contemporary age

The Renaissance is known for being the time of physiological research in the western world, because during this time the modern study of this discipline was activated. The works of Andreas Vesalius are considered to be very influential and this author is usually named as the founder of Human Anatomy, Later, William Harvey, as developer of experimental physiology, and Herman Boerhaave, as founder of clinical teaching, allowed progress of physiological knowledge and its dissemination in academic settings.

This knowledge continued to accumulate throughout the centuries, especially beginning in the 19th century, when the American Association of Physiology was founded and when the Cell Theory of Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann appeared. Other authors such as Iván Pávlov also made findings that were crucial for other disciplines such as Psychology or Education.

In the 20th century, Evolutionary Physiology became a different discipline. The technological advances of the last decades have allowed this science to increase its discoveries and its contributions to humanity.

Bases of Physiology

The structure and life of living beings is more complex than the sum of its separate parts (cells, tissues, organs, etc.). For this reason, Physiology supports the bases of other disciplines related to Biology:

Anatomy: Study the bones, muscles, joints, etc.

  • Biophysics: It focuses on the study of physical principles that are present in the processes of living beings.
  • Genetics: Refers to the study of hereditary phenomena that are transmitted from one generation to another.
  • Biochemistry: This science is in charge of studying the chemical composition of living organisms.
  • Biomechanics: Study the forces and mechanical structures that act and are present in living beings.

Types of Physiology

Given the number of fields that Physiology covers, it is possible to classify this discipline into different specialties:

  1. Plant physiology

Study of those physiological components that affect plants and vegetables, such as photosynthesis, plant nutrition and reproduction, or the functions of plant hormones.

  1. Animal physiology

It is the branch of Physiology in charge of the biological study of animal species.

  1. Human physiology

This branch of Physiology belongs to Animal Physiology, but it focuses on the study of the human body and its different parts and functions.

  1. General physiology

The study of both plant physiology and animal physiology is what is known as general physiology.

  1. Comparative physiology

Its objective is to compare the functioning and structures of animals and man.

  1. Cell physiology

Focused on studying the functions and anatomy of cells and how they capture stimuli and process information, reproduce and grow, feed, etc.

  1. Physiological Psychology

It is responsible for the study of biological structures, elements and processes that are related to mental life and normal or pathological behavior.

Other types of Physiology

The previous classification is the most important, however, there are other types of Physiology according to different authors.

  • Embryonic Physiology: As its name suggests, your study revolves around comparing different types of animal embryos in general.
  • Physiology of hearing: It is necessary to study the Anatomy and Physiology of the hearing system.
  • Cardiac Physiology: It is in charge of the study of the Anatomy and functioning of the heart.
  • Renal physiology: Studies the functioning and structure of the kidneys and especially the nephron, the basic functional unit of this organ.
  • Tissue physiology: It is related to cellular physiology because tissues are cell junctions that work together to perform a specific task
  • Vision Physiology: Study the Anatomy and functions of the eye.
  • Reproduction physiology: It is responsible for studying the mechanisms related to the reproduction of living things.
  • Vascular Physiology: Studies the structures and functions that veins, arteries and capillaries perform.


Physiology can be classified into different types; however, all of them refer to general Physiology: a science closely linked to Biology that has allowed us to understand how our organism works, that of other animals, plants and microorganisms.

The discoveries in Physiology have been key to the development of other disciplines such as Medicine, Psychology or Sports Training.

Remember: the best option against health complications is going to the hospital. If you or any of your relatives get sick, here at Parkwood Green Medical we’ll be happy to assist you with any health issues you are facing.