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Biology is the study of life and the processes thereof. The term biology was coined in the late 1700s by the French naturalist Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck (who also coined the word 'invertebrate').

We study general principles of how living things work in biochemistry and genetics. To find out more about specific organisms we investigate their anatomy, physiology, behavior and ontogeny. To find out how organisms relate we investigate their ecology. At the microscopic level, we study their cell biology.

One of the central concepts in biology is the principle of evolution. The evolutionary history of an organism, i.e. the sequence of ancestral species, is called its phylogeny; it is studied using methods of molecular biology by comparing sequences of genes and proteins, and by investigating ancient forms of life in paleontology. Various methodologies have developed, including phylogenetics, phenetics, and cladistics. An evolutionary timeline outlining the major events in the evolution of life on Earth is available.

The classification of living things is called taxonomy, and should reflect the evolutionary trees of the different creatures. The dominant system is called Linnaean taxonomy. Typically living things were divided into five kingdoms:

Monera -- Protista -- Fungi -- Plantae -- Animalia

However, this five kingdom system is now considered by many to be outdated and the data better reflected by a model starting with the three domains of biological cells:

Archaea -- Eukaryota -- Eubacteria

The distinction between life and non-life never being a hard and fast one, there are also a series of parasites that are progressively less alive:

Viruses -- Viroids -- Prions

Major Branches of Biology

Anatomy -- Biochemistry -- Biotechnology -- Botany -- Cell biology -- Cladistics -- Cytology -- Developmental biology -- Ecology -- Ethology -- Evolution -- Genetics -- Immunology -- Infectious disease -- Marine biology -- Microbiology -- Molecular Biology -- Oncology? (the study of cancer) -- Ontogeny -- Paleontology -- Phylogeny -- Physiology -- [Structural biology]? -- Taxonomy -- Toxicology (the study of poisons and pollution) -- Zoology

People and History

Famous biologists -- [History of biology]? -- Nobel prize in physiology or medicine

What are our priorities for writing in this area? To help develop a list of the most basic topics in Biology, please see Biology basic topics.


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Last edited November 30, 2001 4:27 am by Dmerrill (diff)