Physiology (/ˌfɪziˈɒlədʒi/; from Ancient Greek φύσις
(physis), meaning 'nature, origin', and -λογία (-logia), meaning
'study of') is the scientific study of normal mechanisms, and their
interactions, which works within a living system. A sub-discipline
of biology, its focus is in how organisms, organ systems, organs,
cells, and biomolecules carry out the chemical or physical functions
that exist in a living system. Given the size of the field, it is
divided into, among others, animal physiology (including that of
humans), plant physiology, cellular physiology, microbial physiology
(microbial metabolism), bacterial physiology, and viral physiology.
Central to an understanding of physiological functioning is its
integrated nature with other disciplines such as chemistry and
physics, coordinated homeostatic control mechanisms, and continuous
communication between cells.
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded to those who make
significant achievements in this discipline by the Royal Swedish
Academy of Sciences. In medicine, a physiologic state is one occurring
from normal body function, rather than pathologically, which is
centered on the abnormalities that occur in animal diseases, including
1 Foundations of Physiology
1.1 Human physiology
1.2 Animal Physiology
1.3 Plant Physiology
1.4 Cellular Physiology
1.5 Microbial Physiology
1.6 Viral Physiology
2.1 The Classical Era
2.2 Early Modern Period
2.3 Late Modern Period
3 Notable Physiologists
3.1 Women in physiology
5 Physiological Societies
6 See also
8 External links
Foundations of Physiology
Human body § Physiology
Human physiology seeks to understand the mechanisms that work to keep
the human body alive and functioning, through scientific enquiry
into the nature of mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions of
humans, their organs, and the cells of which they are composed. The
principal level of focus of physiology is at the level of organs and
systems within systems. The endocrine and nervous systems play major
roles in the reception and transmission of signals. that integrate
function in animals.
Homeostasis is a major aspect with regard to such
interactions within plants as well as animals. The biological basis of
the study of physiology, integration refers to the overlap of many
functions of the systems of the human body, as well as its accompanied
form. It is achieved through communication that occurs in a variety of
ways, both electrical and chemical.
Changes in physiology can impact the mental functions of individuals.
Examples of this would be the effects of certain medications or toxic
levels of substances. Change in behavior as a result of these
substances is often used to assess the health of individuals.
Much of the foundation of knowledge in human physiology was provided
by animal experimentation. Due to the frequent connection between form
and function, physiology and anatomy are intrinsically linked and are
studied in tandem as part of a medical curriculum.
Zoology § Physiology
Main article: Plant Physiology
Plant physiology is a subdiscipline of botany concerned with the
functioning of plants. Closely related fields include plant
morphology, plant ecology, phytochemistry, cell biology, genetics,
biophysics, and molecular biology. Fundamental processes of plant
physiology include photosynthesis, respiration, plant nutrition,
tropisms, nastic movements, photoperiodism, photomorphogenesis,
circadian rhythms, seed germination, dormancy, and stomata function
and transpiration. Absorption of water by roots, production of food in
the leaves, and growth of shoots towards light are examples of plant
Main article: Cell physiology
Although there are differences between animal, plant, and microbial
cells, the basic physiological functions of cells can be divided into
the processes of cell division, cell signaling, cell growth, and cell
Main article: Microorganism
Microorganisms can be found almost everywhere on Earth. Types of
microorganisms include archaea, bacteria, eukaryotes, protists, fungi,
and micro-plants. Microbes are important in human culture and health
in many ways, serving to ferment foods, treat sewage, produce fuel,
enzymes and other bioactive compounds. They are essential tools in
biology as model organisms and have been put to use in biological
warfare and bioterrorism. They are a vital component of fertile soils.
In the human body microorganisms make up the human microbiota
including the essential gut flora. They are the pathogens responsible
for many infectious diseases and as such are the target of hygiene
measures. Most microorganisms can reproduce rapidly, and bacteria are
also able to freely exchange genes through conjugation, transformation
and transduction, even between widely divergent species.
Main article: Virus
The Classical Era
The study of human physiology as a medical field originates in
classical Greece, at the time of
Hippocrates (late 5th century
BC). Outside of Western tradition, early forms of physiology or
anatomy can be reconstructed as having been present at around the same
time in China, India and elsewhere.
his belief system called the theory of humours, which consisted of
four basic substance: earth, water, air and fire. Each substance is
known for having a corresponding humour: black bile, phlegm, blood and
yellow bile, respectively.
Hippocrates also noted some emotional
connections to the four humours, which Claudius Galenus would later
expand on. The critical thinking of
Aristotle and his emphasis on the
relationship between structure and function marked the beginning of
physiology in Ancient Greece. Like Hippocrates,
Aristotle took to the
humoral theory of disease, which also consisted of four primary
qualities in life: hot, cold, wet and dry. Claudius Galenus (c.
~130–200 AD), known as
Galen of Pergamum, was the first to use
experiments to probe the functions of the body. Unlike Hippocrates,
Galen argued that humoral imbalances can be located in specific
organs, including the entire body. His modification of this theory
better equipped doctors to make more precise diagnoses.
played off of
Hippocrates idea that emotions were also tied to the
humours, and added the notion of temperaments: sanguine corresponds
with blood; phlegmatic is tied to phlegm; yellow bile is connected to
choleric; and black bile corresponds with melancholy.
Galen also saw
the human body consisting of three connected systems: the brain and
nerves, which are responsible for thoughts and sensations; the heart
and arteries, which give life; and the liver and veins, which can be
attributed to nutrition and growth.
Galen was also the founder of
experimental physiology. And for the next 1,400 years, Galenic
physiology was a powerful and influential tool in medicine.
Early Modern Period
Jean Fernel (1497–1558), a French physician, introduced the term
"physiology". Galen, Ibn al-Nafis, Michael Servetus, Realdo
Amato Lusitano and William Harvey, are credited as making
important discoveries in the circulation of the blood. Santorio
Santorio in 1610s was the first to use a device to measure the pulse
rate (the pulsilogium), and a thermoscope to measure temperature.
Luigi Galvani described the role of electricity in nerves of
dissected frogs. In 1811, Julien Jean César Legallois studied
respiration in animal dissection and lesions and found the center of
respiration in the medulla oblongata. In the same year, Charles Bell
finished work on what would later become known as the Bell-Magendie
law, which compared functional differences between dorsal and ventral
roots of the spinal cord. In 1824,
François Magendie described the
sensory roots and produced the first evidence of the cerebellum’s
role in equilibration to complete the Bell-Magendie law.
In the 1820s, the French physiologist
Henri Milne-Edwards introduced
the notion of physiological division of labor, which allowed to
"compare and study living things as if they were machines created by
the industry of man." Inspired in the work of Adam Smith,
Milne-Edwards wrote that the "body of all living beings, whether
animal or plant, resembles a factory ... where the organs, comparable
to workers, work incessantly to produce the phenomena that constitute
the life of the individual." In more differentiated organisms, the
functional labor could be apportioned between different instruments or
systems (called by him as appareils).
In 1858, Joseph Lister studied the cause of blood coagulation and
inflammation that resulted after previous injuries and surgical
wounds. He later discovered and implemented antiseptics in the
operating room, and as a result decreased death rate from surgery by a
The Physiological Society was founded in London in 1876 as a dining
The American Physiological Society (APS) is a nonprofit
organization that was founded in 1887. The Society is, "devoted to
fostering education, scientific research, and dissemination of
information in the physiological sciences."
Ivan Pavlov performed research on "conditional responses"
that involved dogs' saliva production in response to a bell and visual
In the 19th century, physiological knowledge began to accumulate at a
rapid rate, in particular with the 1838 appearance of the Cell theory
of Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann. It radically stated that
organisms are made up of units called cells. Claude Bernard's
(1813–1878) further discoveries ultimately led to his concept of
milieu interieur (internal environment), which would later be taken up
and championed as "homeostasis" by American physiologist Walter B.
Cannon in 1929. By homeostasis, Cannon meant "the maintenance of
steady states in the body and the physiological processes through
which they are regulated." In other words, the body's ability to
regulate its internal environment. William Beaumont was the first
American to utilize the practical application of physiology.
Nineteenth century physiologists such as Michael Foster, Max Verworn,
and Alfred Binet, based on Haeckel's ideas, elaborated what came to be
called "general physiology", a unified science of life based on the
cell actions, later renamed in the 20th century as cell
Late Modern Period
In the 20th century, biologists became interested in how organisms
other than human beings function, eventually spawning the fields of
comparative physiology and ecophysiology. Major figures in these
Knut Schmidt-Nielsen and George Bartholomew. Most
recently, evolutionary physiology has become a distinct
August Krogh won the Nobel Prize for discovering how, in
capillaries, blood flow is regulated.
Andrew Huxley and Hugh Huxley, alongside their research team,
discovered the sliding filaments in skeletal muscle, known today as
the sliding filament theory.
Main article: List of Physiologists
Women in physiology
Initially, women were largely excluded from official involvement in
any physiological society. The American Physiological Society, for
example, was founded in 1887 and included only men in its ranks.
In 1902, the
American Physiological Society elected
Ida Hyde as the
first female member of the society. Hyde, a representative of the
American Association of University Women
American Association of University Women and a global advocate for
gender equality in education, attempted to promote gender equality
in every aspect of science and medicine.
Soon thereafter, in 1913,
J.S. Haldane proposed that women be allowed
to formally join The Physiological Society, which had been founded in
1876. On 3 July 1915, six women were officially admitted: Florence
Buchanan, Winifred Cullis, Ruth C. Skelton, Sarah C. M. Sowton,
Constance Leetham Terry, and Enid M. Tribe. The centenary of the
election of women was celebrated in 2015 with the publication of the
book "Women Physiologists: Centenary Celebrations And Beyond For The
Physiological Society." (ISBN 978-0-9933410-0-7)
Prominent women physiologists include:
Gerty Cori, along with husband Carl Cori, received the Nobel Prize
Physiology or Medicine in 1947 for their discovery of the
phosphate-containing form of glucose known as glycogen, as well as its
function within eukaryotic metabolic mechanisms for energy production.
Moreover, they discovered the Cori cycle, also known as the Lactic
acid cycle, which describes how muscle tissue converts glycogen
into lactic acid via lactic acid fermentation.
Barbara McClintock was rewarded the 1983 Nobel Prize in
Medicine for the discovery of genetic transposition McClintock is the
only female recipient who has won an unshared Nobel Prize.
Gertrude Elion, along with
George Hitchings and Sir James Black,
received the Nobel Prize for
Physiology or Medicine in 1988 for their
development of drugs employed in the treatment of several major
diseases, such as leukemia, some autoimmune disorders, gout, malaria,
and viral herpes.
Linda B. Buck, along with Richard Axel, received the Nobel Prize
Physiology or Medicine in 2004 for their discovery of odorant
receptors and the complex organization of the olfactory system.
Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, along with Luc Montagnier, received
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008 for their work on
the identification of the Human Immunodeficiency
Virus (HIV), the
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Elizabeth Blackburn, along with Carol W. Greider and Jack W.
Szostak, was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for
Physiology or Medicine
for the discovery of the genetic composition and function of telomeres
and the enzyme called telomerase.
Part of a series on
Bloodstain pattern analysis
Questioned document examination
Fire accelerant detection
Traffic collision reconstruction
Perry Mason syndrome
Use of DNA in
There are many ways to categorize the subdiscplines of physiology:
based on the taxa studied: human physiology, animal physiology, plant
physiology, microbial physiology, viral physiology
based on the level of organization: cell physiology, molecular
physiology, systems physiology, organismal physiology, ecological
physiology, integrative physiology
based on the process that causes physiological variation:
developmental physiology, environmental physiology, evolutionary
based on the ultimate goals of the research: applied physiology (e.g.,
medical physiology), non-applied (e.g., comparative physiology)
Main article: International Union of Physiological Sciences
Outline of physiology
List of physiologists
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The Physiological Society
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Branches of life science and biology
Origin of life
Physiology of dinosaurs
Plant perception (physiology)
Physiological plant disorders
Laureates of the Nobel Prize in
Physiology or Medicine
1901 Emil Behring
1902 Ronald Ross
1903 Niels Finsen
1904 Ivan Pavlov
1905 Robert Koch
Camillo Golgi / Santiago Ramón y Cajal
1907 Alphonse Laveran
Élie Metchnikoff / Paul Ehrlich
1909 Emil Kocher
1910 Albrecht Kossel
1911 Allvar Gullstrand
1912 Alexis Carrel
1913 Charles Richet
1914 Róbert Bárány
1919 Jules Bordet
1920 August Krogh
Archibald Hill / Otto Meyerhof
Frederick Banting / John Macleod
1924 Willem Einthoven
1926 Johannes Fibiger
1927 Julius Wagner-Jauregg
1928 Charles Nicolle
Christiaan Eijkman / Frederick Gowland Hopkins
1930 Karl Landsteiner
1931 Otto Warburg
Charles Scott Sherrington
Charles Scott Sherrington / Edgar Adrian
1933 Thomas Morgan
George Whipple /
George Minot / William Murphy
1935 Hans Spemann
1936 Henry Dale / Otto Loewi
1937 Albert Szent-Györgyi
1938 Corneille Heymans
1939 Gerhard Domagk
Henrik Dam / Edward Doisy
Joseph Erlanger / Herbert Gasser
Alexander Fleming /
Ernst Chain / Howard Florey
1946 Hermann Muller
Carl Cori /
Gerty Cori / Bernardo Houssay
1948 Paul Müller
1949 Walter Hess / António Egas Moniz
1950 Edward Kendall /
Tadeusz Reichstein / Philip Hench
1951 Max Theiler
1952 Selman Waksman
1953 Hans Krebs / Fritz Lipmann
1954 John Enders / Thomas Weller / Frederick Robbins
1955 Hugo Theorell
1956 André Cournand /
Werner Forssmann / Dickinson W. Richards
1957 Daniel Bovet
George Beadle /
Edward Tatum / Joshua Lederberg
Severo Ochoa / Arthur Kornberg
1960 Frank Burnet / Peter Medawar
1961 Georg von Békésy
Francis Crick /
James Watson / Maurice Wilkins
1963 John Eccles / Alan Hodgkin / Andrew Huxley
1964 Konrad Bloch / Feodor Lynen
François Jacob / André Lwoff / Jacques Monod
1966 Francis Rous / Charles B. Huggins
Ragnar Granit / Haldan Hartline / George Wald
Robert W. Holley
Robert W. Holley / Har Khorana / Marshall Nirenberg
Max Delbrück /
Alfred Hershey / Salvador Luria
Bernard Katz /
Ulf von Euler
Ulf von Euler / Julius Axelrod
1971 Earl Sutherland Jr.
Gerald Edelman / Rodney Porter
Karl von Frisch
Karl von Frisch /
Konrad Lorenz / Nikolaas Tinbergen
Albert Claude /
Christian de Duve
Christian de Duve / George Palade
David Baltimore /
Renato Dulbecco / Howard Temin
1976 Baruch Blumberg / Daniel Gajdusek
Roger Guillemin /
Andrew Schally / Rosalyn Yalow
Werner Arber /
Daniel Nathans / Hamilton O. Smith
1979 Allan Cormack / Godfrey Hounsfield
Baruj Benacerraf /
Jean Dausset / George Snell
1981 Roger Sperry /
David H. Hubel
David H. Hubel / Torsten Wiesel
Sune Bergström /
Bengt I. Samuelsson / John Vane
1983 Barbara McClintock
1984 Niels Jerne / Georges Köhler / César Milstein
1985 Michael Brown / Joseph L. Goldstein
1986 Stanley Cohen / Rita Levi-Montalcini
1987 Susumu Tonegawa
1988 James W. Black /
Gertrude B. Elion
Gertrude B. Elion / George H. Hitchings
J. Michael Bishop
J. Michael Bishop / Harold E. Varmus
Joseph Murray / E. Donnall Thomas
Erwin Neher / Bert Sakmann
1992 Edmond Fischer / Edwin G. Krebs
Richard J. Roberts
Richard J. Roberts / Phillip Sharp
Alfred G. Gilman
Alfred G. Gilman / Martin Rodbell
Edward B. Lewis
Edward B. Lewis /
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard / Eric F.
Peter C. Doherty
Peter C. Doherty / Rolf M. Zinkernagel
1997 Stanley B. Prusiner
Robert F. Furchgott
Robert F. Furchgott /
Louis Ignarro / Ferid Murad
1999 Günter Blobel
Arvid Carlsson /
Paul Greengard / Eric Kandel
Leland H. Hartwell /
Tim Hunt / Paul Nurse
Sydney Brenner /
H. Robert Horvitz / John E. Sulston
Paul Lauterbur / Peter Mansfield
Richard Axel / Linda B. Buck
Barry Marshall / Robin Warren
Andrew Fire / Craig Mello
Mario Capecchi /
Martin Evans / Oliver Smithies
Harald zur Hausen
Harald zur Hausen /
Luc Montagnier / Françoise Barré-Sinoussi
Elizabeth Blackburn /
Carol W. Greider
Carol W. Greider / Jack W. Szostak
2010 Robert G. Edwards
Bruce Beutler /
Jules A. Hoffmann / Ralph M. Steinman
John B. Gurdon
John B. Gurdon / Shinya Yamanaka
James Rothman /
Randy Schekman / Thomas C. Südhof
2014 John O'Keefe /
May-Britt Moser / Edvard Moser
2015 William C. Campbell /
Satoshi Ōmura / Tu Youyou
2016 Yoshinori Ohsumi
2017 Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, Michael W. Young