What is Biology? A Must Read Introduction

by Dave

Everyone knows what biology is, right? Well, there are many branches in biology that you may never have heard of. What are these sub-disciplines, and how did they get started? In this article, I consider biology’s history, and towards the end, I overview what biology is today.

Biology is the science and study of life or living things and their key processes. The name is derived from two Greek words “bios” (meaning life) and “logos” (meaning study).  This field deals with all the different physicochemical aspects of life. Curious about what is biology? Let’s go over the basic information central to this important field of study.

The contemporary tendency towards cross-disciplinary research along with the unification of latest scientific knowledge and in-depth investigation from various fields. Results include considerable overlap between biology and other scientific disciplines.

Biologists study the function, structure, origin, growth, evolution and distribution of a variety of living organisms. There are usually considered to be at least 9 “umbrella” fields of biology, and each of them has multiple subfields.

Biology is, therefore, subdivided into separate types for ease of study. Considering this, all its subdivisions interrelate by some basic principles. Therefore, while it is a common practice to separate the study of animals (zoology) from the study of plants (botany) and the study of the form and structure of living organisms (morphology) from that of function (physiology), note that all living beings share specific biological phenomena. For instance, various means of cell division, reproduction, and the transmission of genetic material.

History of Biology 

Our fascination and interest in biology has a very long history. To start off, even early humans needed to study various animals they hunted. Early humans understood the importance of studying their environment. Experts understand the invention of agriculture to be the first great advancement in human civilization. In actuality, medicine is the first field been crucial to us from the earliest history.

Also, keep in mind that the earliest known medical texts are of Chinese (2500 B.C.) and Egyptian (1800 B.C.) origin. The history of this field traces the study of the living beings from ancient to modern times. 

The notion of biology as one coherent field emerged in the 19th century. Various biological sciences arose from  natural history and traditions of medicine that reach back far in history. Reaches extend to ancient Egyptian medicine, ayurveda, and the works of Galen and Aristotle in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

In classic times, Aristotle is usually deemed the first person to practice scientific zoology. Aristotle is known to have done extensive studies of both plants and marine life. Theophrastus, his student, wrote one of the West’s earliest botanical texts back in 300 B.C. The piece included insights into the life cycle, structure, and uses of plants. 

What is Biology’s Most Progressive Period?

The Roman physician Galen utilized his experience to patch up gladiators for the arena. His writings included texts on various surgical procedures and techniques in A.D. 158.

Scholars from the medieval Islamic world who extensively wrote on biology were Al-DÄ«nawarÄ« (828–896), who studied and wrote on botany, al-Jahiz (781–869), as well as Rhazes (865–925) who wrote in detail on both anatomy and physiology. 

Also, medicine was particularly well studied by many Islamic scholars who worked in various Greek philosopher traditions. On the other hand, natural history drew extensively on Aristotelian thought and logic. Aristotle influenced the field particularly in upholding a stable hierarchy of life.

During the Renaissance, the famous Leonardo da Vinci risked reprimand and censure when he participated in human dissection as well as made elaborate anatomical drawings which are still considered to be the most beautiful and impactful drawings ever made. 

With the ability to reproduce woodcut illustrations and invention of the printing press, information was much easier and quicker to disseminate and record. A German botanist Leonhard Fuchs wrote one of the first biology text books in 1542, which is a botanical text. In 1735, Carolus Linnaeus inaugurated binomial classification and used Latin names to classify species according to their specific characteristics.

Branches of Biology 

Marine Biology 

This is an important branch of biology. Marine biology primarily focuses on the in-depth study of ocean-dwelling animals and plants along with the general functioning of our ocean’s ecosystem. It can either be a stand-alone major or an option for a particular track in any general biology major. 

A marine biologist studies biological oceanography and the related fields of physical, chemical, and geological oceanography in order to better understand marine organisms.

As marine biology is an extremely broad area, a majority of researchers choose a specific area of interest to specialize in. also, note that specializations could be based on a certain group, species, behavior, ecosystem or technique.


As botany is the study of plant life, this field focuses on understanding various plants as well as the important roles they play in our environment. Individuals who have a botany degree may find employment in plant nurseries, gardening, park maintenance, agriculture, or in research and teaching. 


Anatomy is a key branch of biology which is concerned with the in-depth study of structure in human beings, animals, and living organisms.  However, human anatomy is considered a segregated area of study. In the past, anatomy was literally understood as dissection. 

Researches and studies, however, have remodeled and improved the concept of anatomy over several decades, and define dissection as an integral part of anatomy but not the whole subject.


Different from botany, zoology is a field that focuses on the detailed study of animal life as well as ecosystems with the main focus on animals. You will need an advanced zoology degree in case you want to perform research on animals or directly work with animals in a park or zoo. 

 Zoology includes the inquiry into specific animals as well as their constituent parts, and this done to the molecular level along with inquiry and research into entire faunas, animal populations, and the relationships between animals, and their relationship to plants, and even to the nonliving environment. 

Although this wide and extensive range of studies often results in some degree of isolation within zoology, note that the conceptual integration in the modern study of living beings which has occurred in the recent years tends to emphasize the functional and structural unity of life instead of its diversity.

Environmental Studies or Ecology

Many are interested in current issues such as sustainable development and global warming. For those curious minds, a field focused on environmental studies and ecology may suit you. Ecologists and environmental scientists study biology at the macroscopic level, and focus on the interactions between animals and plants as well as other influences like physical forces and environmental chemicals. Studies in this field can lead to work as an environmental planner, a science writer, a soil technician or similar professions.


Microbiology is the study of life at the level of viruses and bacteria. The field can have diverse applications. Applications range from public health and infectious disease research to industrial uses of a number of bacterial byproducts. This is why a major in microbiology usually includes studies of both inorganic and organic chemistry. The field also includes studies regarding immunology and genetics. Post-graduation, this major can lead to employment in public services or laboratory research.

Historical Summary of Biology Human brain Antique engraved illustration from Brockhaus Konversations Lexikon 1908

Historical Summary of Biology

One of the most sarcastic areas of study is one that is so close to your own heart: biology. Biology defines biology as the study of living things and their vital processes. It deals with the physiological aspect of life. Biology has an approach from the basis of levels that deal with the basic units of life. 

Biology has separate branches for the convenience of its study, although all the subsets relate to the principles. It is the norm to separate the study of plants, which known as botany and the study of animals which is known as zoology. The study of the organism’s structure is morphology. The study of the organisms body function is known as physiology. However, all plants share the same similar basic structure, for instance, cell division, means of production and the transmission of genetic material from the parents to the offsprings. 

The history of biology traces back from ancient times to modern times in the living world. The idea of biology as a coherent filed came up in the 19th century. Biology emerged from the traditional practices of medicine and history in ancient Egyptian medicine based on the works of Aristotle and Galen.

 The ancient work was further developed in the middle ages by other physicians and scholars during the European Renaissance. Prominent movements such as Vesalius and Harvey carried out experiments and made consistent observations in physiology.  Naturalists like Buffon and Linnaeus started to classify the fossil records, diversity of life as well as the advancement of the behavior of organisms.

From Aristotle to the Modern Day Biology

Aristotle is popularly known as the father of biology. His conscientious study in the 4th-century BC led to the birth of a science of biology

In the 18th and 19th century, biological sciences such as botany and zoology became known professional scientific disciplines. Alexander Von investigated the interactions between living organisms and their surroundings.

The advancement of cell theory brought a new perspective on the fundamental basis of life. Charles Darwin synthesized development of embryology and paleontology in his theory evolution through natural selection.

In the 20th century, there were rapid developments in the field of genetics led by Thomas Hunt Morgan and his scholars. Later, in the 1930s there was a combination of natural selection and population genetics.

Other new disciplines came up rapidly after neo Watson proposed the structure of DNA. At this point, biology was torn between organism biology and the field dealing with cellular and molecular biology. Organismal biologists made use of molecular techniques and cell biologists in investigating the relationship between genes and the environment.

It is definite that biology is a critical area of study in efforts to improve human life. Biology is significant in understanding your well being and your health since it entails the study of life. It helps you understand and develop your health and diet. What’s more significant than leading a good life and being reasonably healthy? Biology gives insight into the importance of minerals and vitamins essential for your body to function correctly.

What is Biology Today?

Today, many wonder what is biology in modern senses? The truth of the matter lies in the field’s ability to progress. Most people believe biology is medicinal in nature. If you know about biology, then it likely relates to health and wellness. Biology is much more than simple medicinal research. Researchers and academics work to provide insights to all aspects of life. The things to watch for in today’s biology field include a few hot button issues.

The Rise in Environmental Studies

More people today study the environment than ever. Results point to a public conversation on climate change as a leading factor. The global climate steadily increases with each passing year. The trends worry many professionals and experts on the Earth’s living creatures. Plants, animals, and humans face risks due to the increasing climate. A lot of research today involves ways to help curtail the climate’s rise. Solutions include corporate and consumer methods of reducing waste and recycling non-perishable materials. Plastic and coal are two fields in which researchers deal often. Both substances pose a large risk to the environment’s health.

Genetic Construction

A popular area of interest in biology is genetic construction. Technology exists today to rewrite genetic code. Biological life consists of genetic code. The code determines everything from eye color to developmental progress in young children. Animals, plants, and humans consist of genetics. Professionals in the branch of study research heavily in new and profound ways. The most impressive finding is the ability to rewrite genetics. The process leads to questions of cloning plants for food, and animals for livestock. Many concerns include whether or not cloning is moral or ethical. The debate rages on as the new decade turns to more findings and studies.

Preserving Life in All Forms

Loosely related to the first two subjects of this section, life is in danger. Throughout recorded history, species have come and gone. If you look back thousands of years, then many start to see living things we don’t recognize today. Life is constantly changing and evolving. Plants alive even a few centuries ago can go extinct without any real reason. It’s much more common today to be aware and thoughtful about these things. Firstly, we know human implications cause the extinction of living things. Secondly, we have the means to study these things closely. Overall, the influence of biology in the study of living things and preservation is crucial to the field today.

Biology Articles Female scientist working in modern lab. Doctor making microbiology research. Biotechnology chemistry bacteriology virology dna and health care concept

Determine how people use mathematics in biology to study living organisms, including their structure, development, and evolution.

Biology is the study of life and the characteristics it embodies. This discipline is incredibly deep and diverse, with many subfields overlapping with every other type of science. There are sub-disciplines on the molecular level, cells and microorganisms level, and macro-level, including anatomy and health. There are several interdisciplinary subfields and significant historical sub-disciplines such as evolutionary biology and paleobiology. Since there are hundreds of thousands of biologists worldwide, it’s challenging to keep up-to-date with current events and successful biologists across research areas.


Hopefully, information about what is biology helps you better understand the field. Continue exploring topics and studies on Dave4Math by making a free account today. Members can join the Dave4Math community to work and learn with other likeminded individuals all over the world.