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The physiology ( ancient Greek φύσις physique , German , Nature ' and λόγος lógos , German , teaching' , Reason 'or φυσιολογία Physiologia , German , Natural History' ) is the study of the normal, in particular biophysical, life processes in the cells , tissues and Organs of all living things ; it includes the interaction of all physical, chemical and biochemical processes in the entire organism in its consideration. This distinguishes it from biochemistry and anatomy as well as from pathology and pathophysiology . The aim of physiology is to make predictions about the behavior of a system under consideration (e.g. metabolism , movement , germination , growth , reproduction ).

Physiological research and training takes place in biology, nutritional science , medicine, pharmacy , psychology and sports science .

The adjective physiological is also used in the sense of normal , occurring in healthy people , not pathological . Accordingly, non-physiological or pathological denotes a deviation from the normal life processes occurring or desirable in a healthy living being.


The beginnings of today's physiology are connected with the beginning of scientific medicine in ancient Greece . The term physiology was coined by Jean François Fernel around 1525 . Until the 19th century, however, physiology dealt with the functioning of animate nature as well as the growth and decay in inanimate nature and thus also included the areas of physics and mineralogy. The first independent chairs for physiology in German-speaking countries were established between 1853 and 1859 in Tübingen, Berlin, Heidelberg, Bonn and Jena. The anatomist and physiologist Carl Ludwig (1816–1895), who wrote that "Physiology grew out of anatomy and was apprenticed to the physicist and chemist [...], was the main contributor to the integration of physiology into the exact natural sciences ." ] ". Further representatives of such a physically and mathematically founded, experimental physiology that replaced a romantic physiology were Adolf Fick , Emil du Bois-Reymond and Jakob Moleschott .

Main areas of physiology

The subject areas of physiology are diverse. In particular, she works with biochemistry , which was previously called 'physiological chemistry'. Physiology's focus is on the dynamics of biological processes and their causal relationships; so it analyzes changes such as information processing rather than static states. The most important tools - experimental set-ups and measurement procedures - come from physics and chemistry in the physiology department .

Derived from the traditional structure of biology or as a branch of medicine, there are three main areas

In addition to plants, animals and humans, physiology also deals with all other living beings.

Without physiology, targeted pharmacology would not be possible; because it can partially describe and also predict the effects, properties and disadvantages of drugs .

Physiologists analyze the basic life processes at different levels of complexity; Examples for this are:

Pathological conditions are also examined, for which pathophysiology has established its own sub-area. The boundaries between physiology and anatomy , biochemistry , molecular biology , psychology and neurobiology are fluid.

At German universities, human physiology is mostly at home in the medical faculties and, with biochemistry, anatomy and psychology as well as the three natural sciences biology, chemistry and physics, is one of the preclinical subjects that also represent a state intermediate examination within the framework of the Physikum .

Training as a specialist in physiology in Germany

In order to work as a “ specialist in physiology” in Germany after completing a medical degree , a four-year period of further training is required. One year in another medical specialty can be credited towards this.

The German Physiological Society (DPG) awards appropriately qualified scientists the designation “Specialized Physiologist of the DPG” on request if they meet the further training requirements of the DPG.

See also


Human medicine

  • Hans-Christian Pape , Armin Kurtz, Stefan Silbernagl (eds.): Physiology. 7th edition. Thieme, Stuttgart 2014, ISBN 978-3-13-796007-2 .
  • Stefan Silbernagl, Agamemnon Despopoulos : Pocket Atlas of Physiology. Thieme, Stuttgart 1979, ISBN 3-13-567701-X .
    • English new edition: Color Atlas of Physiology. 5th, fully revised and expanded edition, ibid 2003.
  • Robert F. Schmidt, Florian Lang, Manfred Heckmann (eds.): Physiology of humans. 31st edition. Springer, Heidelberg 2010, ISBN 978-3-642-01650-9 .
  • Erwin-Josef Speckmann , Jürgen Hescheler , Rüdiger Köhling (eds.): Physiology . 6th edition, Urban & Fischer / Elsevier, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-437-41319-3 .
  • Gilles Bouvenot and Christian Delboy: History of Great Physiological Concepts. In: Illustrated History of Medicine. German arrangement by Richard Toellner et al., Special edition in six volumes, Salzburg 1986, volume V, pp. 2788–2817.
  • Holger Münzel: Max von Frey. Life and work with special consideration of his sensory-physiological research. Würzburg 1992 (= Würzburg medical historical research , 53), ISBN 3-88479-803-0 , especially pp. 175–207 ( short biographies ).
  • Karl Eduard Rothschuh : History of Physiology. Göttingen / Berlin / Heidelberg 1953.

Plant physiology

  • Peter Schopfer, Axel Brennicke: Plant Physiology. Founded by Hans Mohr. 7th edition, Springer Spectrum, reprint 2016, ISBN 978-3-6624-9879-8 .

Animal physiology

Web links

Commons : Physiology  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : Physiologists  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Physiologist  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Jutta Kollesch , Diethard Nickel : Ancient healing art. Selected texts from the medical writings of the Greeks and Romans. Philipp Reclam jun., Leipzig 1979 (= Reclams Universal Library. Volume 771); 6th edition, ibid. 1989, ISBN 3-379-00411-1 , pp. 19-27, here: p. 27.
  2. Claudia Wiesemann: Physiology. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin and New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 1158 f.
  3. Karl Eduard Rothschuh : Physiology in becoming. Stuttgart 1969, p. 173.
  4. ^ Christian Probst : Johann Bernhard Wilbrand (1779–1846) and the physiology of romanticism. In: Sudhoff's archive. Volume 50, 1966, pp. 157-178.
  5. ^ Ralf Vollmuth : Fick, Adolf. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 396.
  6. ^ German Physiological Society: Further training regulations of the
    German Physiological Society: Specialist physiologist