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Life Sciences: Its Historical Background

Updated on August 31, 2014
Life sciences involve the scientific study of living organisms.
Life sciences involve the scientific study of living organisms.
Aristotle (c. 384 BCE–c. 322 BCE) - his speculations about natural things led him to pioneer in botany, zoology and embryology
Aristotle (c. 384 BCE–c. 322 BCE) - his speculations about natural things led him to pioneer in botany, zoology and embryology

Life Sciences

The study of plants and animals began with early man’s concern for his health. He studied herbs for their medicinal value and learned certain things about his body from his primitive attempts at therapy. The Greeks took this simple body of knowledge and vastly enlarged and improved it, with emphasis on their medicine on sound natural science. Aristotle’s speculations about natural things led him to pioneer in botany, zoology and embryology.

Here are some of the noted Greeks who pioneered the field of Life Sciences.

Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.)  changed healing from an occult art into a science teaching that illness was due to natural causes and curable by natural means.
Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) changed healing from an occult art into a science teaching that illness was due to natural causes and curable by natural means.
Galen, (300-1400) a Roman physician, who dominated medieval medicine.
Galen, (300-1400) a Roman physician, who dominated medieval medicine.
William Harvey (1400-1600) first demonstrated that the blood circulates continuously from the heart through arteries into the veins and then back
William Harvey (1400-1600) first demonstrated that the blood circulates continuously from the heart through arteries into the veins and then back
Robert Hooke (17th Century) opened up a new world of being through his discovery of the compound microscope
Robert Hooke (17th Century) opened up a new world of being through his discovery of the compound microscope
Carl Von Linnaeus (18th Century) a Swedish naturalist who established a system for classifying plants and animals and founded taxonomy.
Carl Von Linnaeus (18th Century) a Swedish naturalist who established a system for classifying plants and animals and founded taxonomy.
Charles Darwin (19th Century) an English naturalist who propounded his theory of evolution according to which species of animals are products of a process of natural selection.
Charles Darwin (19th Century) an English naturalist who propounded his theory of evolution according to which species of animals are products of a process of natural selection.

Branches of Biology

Life sciences involve the scientific study of all living organisms such as microorganisms, plants, animals and human beings. The centerpiece of life sciences is biology.

What are the branches of biology which are deemed useful in studying living organisms?

Traditionally, biology has been divided into two major areas 1) Botany, the study of plants and 2) Zoology, the study of animals. However, most biological sciences study both plants and animals. All the many fields of biology are related to one another in some ways.

Ten main subdivisions of biology

Anatomy – the study of the structure of living things.

Physiology – the study of the normal functions of living things.

Pathology – the study of disease, generally in animals.

Biochemistry - the use of chemistry in the study of living things.

Taxonomy – the classification and naming of things.

Biophysics – the use of physics in the study of living things.

Biomathematics – the use of mathematics in the study of living things.

Biological Psychology – the use of biology in psychological studies.

Ecology – the study of relationships of living things to each other and to their environment.

Biological Earth Science – the use of earth sciences such as geography in the study of living things.

Highlights in Biology

Man has been interested in plants and animals ever since he began to wonder about the world he lived in. Some noted scientists/contributors to biological knowledge are:
  1. Anaximander, (611? – 54B.C.) a Greek philosopher who believed that man evolved from fish.
  2. Hippocrates, (460? – 377?) Father of Medicine.
  3. Andreas Vesalius, (1514 – 1564) a Belgian- born physician who became known as the Father of Anatomy.
  4. William Harvey, (1578 – 1657) an English doctor showed in 1628 that human blood circulates and later became known as the Father of Physiology.
  5. Anton Van Leeuwenhook, (1632 - 1723) a Dutch amateur scientist who discovered bacteria with his microscope.
  6. Robert Hooke, (1635 – 1703) an English scientist who described cells as tiny boxes.
  7. Carolus Linnaeus, (1707 – 1778) a Swedish scientist who developed the system of binary nomenclature that biologists use today.
  8. Baron Cuvier, (1769 – 1832) a French naturalist who first compared the structures of the bodies of various animals with that of man.
  9. Mathias Schleiden (1804 – 1881) a German botanist and Theodor Schwann, (1810 – 1882) a German physiologist set forth the theory that cells make up all living organisms.
  10. Charles R. Darwin, (1809 – 1882) an English naturalist who proposed the Theory of Evolution that revolutionized biology.
  11. Gregor Johann Mendel, (1822 - 1884) an Austrian monk who discovered the Principles of Heredity.
  12. Louis Pasteur, (1822 – 1895) a French bacteriologist who proved that bacteria spread disease and developed vaccines for rabbits and anthrax.
  13. Louis Agassiz, (1807 – 1873) a U.S. naturalist who became known for his study of living and fossils fish.
  14. Asa Gray, (1810 – 1888) an American botanist who classified plants.
  15. Rudolf Virchow, (`1825 – 1902) established the science of Pathology.
  16. Thomas Hunt Morgan, (1866 – 1945) an American scientist who established the Gene Theory.
  17. Ivan Petrovich, (1849 - 1946 a Russian physiologist who showed how nerve controls the flow of digestive juices.
  18. Karl Landsteiner, (1868 – 1943) an American physiologist who discovered the main types of human blood.
  19. Albert B. Sabin, (1906 -) an American scientist who developed polio vaccines.
  20. Melvin Calvin, (1911 -) an American scientist who established the chemical pathway of C3 photosynthesis.
  21. James D. Watson, (1928 -) a U.S. biologist and Francis H.C. Crick, (1916 -) of England developed the model of DNA, the basic components of genes.
  22. Sir Alexander Fleming, a British biologist of 1900’s discovered penicillin.
  23. Barbara McClimteck, of U.S. established that genes could move from one location to another on chromosomes.

Questions for Study

  1. Why is the science of Biology considered the centerpiece of life sciences?
  2. List the ten main branches of Biology.
  3. Enumerate at least ten scientists responsible for the existence of Biology as a science.

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    • Eunice Maranan profile image

      Eunice Maranan 2 years ago

      Eunice Maranan,BSA 1-3.

      -

      It's really interesting to know such thing about life. A number of years from now, I will engage myself with different people so I must acquaint myself with these kind of information. Everyone must excel in his chosen career and for an Accountant (soon), in order to achieve it he must prioritize the needs of his client. Through the knowledge that I may gain in studying Biological Science, I will be able to know the things I must consider,and for me to handle uncertainties that will be rising in the future. In the note, there are some scientists who were recognized for pioneering such things in the field of science, as an accountancy student I must be like them who are willing to give everything especially time for a particular thing and knowledge to share with other people whom I will be associating with soon.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 3 years ago from San Francisco

      congratulations. someone put this on the front page

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