The discipline of anatomy is divided into macroscopic and microscopic anatomy. Macroscopic anatomy, or gross anatomy, is the examination of an animal's body parts using unaided eyesight. Gross anatomy also includes the branch of superficial anatomy. Microscopic anatomy involves the use of optical instruments in the study of the tissues of various structures, known as histology, and also in the study of cells.
The history of anatomy is characterized by a progressive understanding of the functions of the organs and structures of the human body. Methods have also improved dramatically, advancing from the examination of animals by dissection of carcasses and cadavers (corpses) to 20th century medical imaging techniques including X-ray, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging.
Derived from the Greek ἀνατομή anatomē "dissection" (from ἀνατέμνω anatémnō "I cut up, cut open" from ἀνά aná "up", and τέμνω témnō "I cut"), anatomy is the scientific study of the structure of organisms including their systems, organs and tissues. It includes the appearance and position of the various parts, the materials from which they are composed, their locations and their relationships with other parts. Anatomy is quite distinct from physiology and biochemistry, which deal respectively with the functions of those parts and the chemical processes involved. For example, an anatomist is concerned with the shape, size, position, structure, blood supply and innervation of an organ such as the liver; while a physiologist is interested in the production of bile, the role of the liver in nutrition and the regulation of bodily functions.
The discipline of anatomy can be subdivided into a number of branches including gross or macroscopic anatomy and microscopic anatomy. Gross anatomy is the study of structures large enough to be seen with the naked eye, and also includes superficial anatomy or surface anatomy, the study by sight of the external body features. Microscopic anatomy is the study of structures on a microscopic scale, including histology (the study of tissues), and embryology (the study of an organism in its immature condition).
Anatomy can be studied using both invasive and non-invasive methods with the goal of obtaining information about the structure and organization of organs and systems. Methods used include dissection, in which a body is opened and its organs studied, and endoscopy, in which a video camera-equipped instrument is inserted through a small incision in the body wall and used to explore the internal organs and other structures. Angiography using X-rays or magnetic resonance angiography are methods to visualize blood vessels.