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What Is Involved in the Study of the Human Body?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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The methods used for a study of the human body can vary quite a bit, especially depending on the particular purpose of the research. A scientist or medical professional, for example, often uses books and other tools to learn about the various systems that make up a body. They can also use more advanced methods of study, including observation of the human body functioning and even the study of different anatomical systems on a dead body. Artists often undergo a study of the human body that is more focused on form and structure, usually through life drawing classes and studying the scale and proportions of different parts.

There are many different ways in which people can perform a study of the human body, though the use of books and similar tools is quite common. Illustrations are often used to provide students with images that clearly depict the different systems and structures that are part of the body. This typically begins with the outer layer of people and the skin and hair. Additional diagrams are typically used in the study of the human body to demonstrate to students how various systems function together and where they are located.

Advances in technology have also improved upon the ways in which students can conduct a study of the human body. Computer simulations can be used to create three-dimensional (3D) models of human bodies and various internal structures. Rather than simply looking at still images, students can see animations and videos that demonstrate how the body functions. This can be especially useful for depicting dynamic systems such as the flow of blood through the body and the messages sent through the nervous system.

Medical students often perform a study of the human body more directly. This can involve inspections and examinations in a hospital or similar environment. Dead bodies or cadavers are often used to provide future doctors with a greater understanding of various biological systems. Dissection is frequently used to demonstrate to medical students the exact location and appearance of various structures within a person.

Artists usually undergo a different study of the human body, with a greater concentration on the outer appearance and the ways the body functions. The skeletal structure and muscle groups of people’s bodies are often studied, though importance is usually placed on aesthetics and how they appear rather than why they function. Life drawing classes are often used to give art students a chance to draw live human figures in various poses, to ensure a greater understanding of anatomy. The focus of this study of the human body is usually on proportions, to ensure that artists understand how different body parts relate to each other for more realistic renderings.

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Discussion Comments

By KoiwiGal — On Jan 31, 2014

@Iluviaporos - From what I've heard medical students still have to do things which people might consider to be reprehensible. I read a book a few years ago which said they are basically given a dog or a pig that is kept under anesthetic for days and they have to do various operations on it to practice.

I get that they need to practice on living tissue but I still wish there was another way. I do think that with modern techniques and teaching methods this kind of thing might eventually go away.

By lluviaporos — On Jan 30, 2014

@irontoenail - If you ever get a chance to go to an old museum hospital you will probably enjoy some of the things they'll have there. I got to go to an old operating theater and school they have set up as a museum in London and it was really incredible.

I came in on the tail end of a tour guide demonstrating how they would have taught back in the day and how there would have been straps holding down the poor patient, who was often destitute and sometimes unwilling to even have surgery.

Dozens of students would witness the surgery and would basically be within breathing distance of the patient, so you can imagine how often those patients survived.

But there was no other way to teach groups of students, since it wasn't like they could tape a surgery and show it to them.

By irontoenail — On Jan 30, 2014

I recently saw a photo online of a wax sculpture that is stored in a museum somewhere that they used to use for medical students. It was amazingly intricate and showed all the organs and many of the major arteries and veins as well. Many of the pieces were detachable so that you could shift them and see underneath.

I guess it always surprises me how much people from the past actually knew about the human body. When you look at Da Vinci's sketches and studies you realize that they actually had a fairly advanced grasp of anatomy. I think the main thing that held back medicine back then was the fact that they just didn't know much about bacteria and cells.

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