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An Introduction To Biology-00-611

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By Author: chandrajit
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The ancient Indian and Greek philosophers, inspired by a natural curiosity of things around them, made innumerable observations of nature and related phenomenon. Their ability to ask questions about the mechanics of life, probe deeper into the causes responsible for the occurrence of natural happenings led to the experimentation process. Experimentation was a tool through which man, by imitating nature, sought to prove the causes of observed phenomenon. For example, man must have observed the inactivity of seeds through the dry summer months.
Then, with the advent of the monsoons, he saw the seeds surge with hectic vital activity. The seeds swelled, shed their coats, put out roots, unfolded green leaves and transformed into a young erect plant. The thinking minds must have wondered about the cause of this dramatic change. Could it be the magic of the rains? In order to establish the cause or causes, man probably began to perform simple experiments, taking his clues from nature. Imitating nature, he perhaps soaked some dry seeds in water and watched them germinate. Then, using reason and logic he must have proceeded to draw his conclusions. Whether his experiments succeeded or failed, it certainly led to an increase in knowledge. In order to contain this growing knowledge, he began to systematize the knowledge which came to be known as Science. Science can thus be described as the systematized knowledge gained by man through observation of natural phenomena and by experimentation. Depending upon the object of study, science has several branches. Biology thus literally means the systematic study of living organisms. Major divisions are as under:
Botany : The study of plants.
Bacteriology : The study of bacteria.
Virology : The study of virus.
Mycology : The study of fungi. 2. Zoology: The study of animals.
Entomology : The study of insects.
Ichthyology : The study of fishes.
Herpetology : The study of reptiles.
Ornithology : The study of birds.
Human biology : The study of man as a living organism and his relationship with other living organisms.
Each subdivision of biology is further divided with respect to the study of the basic nature of organism and the applications that follow from this basic knowledge.
It aims to collect knowledge about all aspects of living organisms. The various aspects are:
Morphology: It deals with the structure of plants. Two main parts of morphology are recognized.
External morphology : It deals with the study of the external form and structure of the organism.
Internal morphology : It deals with the study of the internal form and structure of the organism. It can be further divided into Anatomy which is concerned with the study of the gross internal structure of organs, Histology which involves the study of tissues and tissue systems as seen with the help of a compound microscope and Cytology which is the detailed study of the structure and function of cells.
Physiology: It is the study of the mechanical functions and life activities of the organism such as respiration, digestion (animals), absorption of water from soil (plants), movement etc.
Ecology: It is the study of the relationship of an organism with its living and non-living environment.
Taxonomy: It is the science of naming, grouping and classifying the various organisms.
Evolution: It is the study of the origin and descent of organisms.
Genetics : It is the science concerned with the transmission of hereditary characters from parent to offspring.
Embryology: The study of the formation and development of embryos of plants and animals.
Paleontology: It deals with the study of prehistoric life forms through their fossils. (The organism is now no more living, but its remains are entombed in stratified rocks.)
It aims to utilize the knowledge gained from Basic Biology for the welfare of the human race.
Pathology; It is the study Of diseases of plants and animals and the methods of their control.
Parasitology : The study of parasites (i.e. organisms that derive nourishment from living hosts without helping them in any way).
Agriculture : It deals with the principles and practices for the amelioration (improvement) of crop plants.
Horticulture : It deals with the principles and practices for the amelioration of ornamental and fruit plants.
Economic Biology: It deals with the study of plants and animals of commercial importance and their products.
Eugenics: It is a science that aims to improve the human race through controlled hereditary.
Marine Biology: It is concerned with the study of life forms in the sea.
Some of the latest branches of biology that have developed are nuclear biology, space biology and the most fledgling science - ‘exobiology'.
Apart from Basic and Applied Biology , many more branches of science have developed. These have been founded or formulated on account of the interdependence of the physical and biological sciences.
Biochemistry: It is the study of the chemical activities within living organisms.
Biophysics :The physics of biological processes and the use of technique of physics in studying biology.
Biometry: The application of mathematics, especially statistics, in the study of living things.
Even a slight familiarity with the various branches of science gives us a fairly good idea about the vast knowledge that results from the study of this science.
Knowledge equips us with the ability to manipulate and control our living and non-living environment.
This branch of science has contributed greatly in the field of medicine. Methods of controlling, curing diseases and formulating drugs have become possible only from the combined knowledge accruing from the various branches. For instance, consider the female anopheles mosquito which is the carrier of the malarial protozoa. It lays its eggs in stagnant pools of water. The larvae (young stage) obtain atmospheric oxygen by positioning itself horizontally on the water surface and breathe by means of respiratory tubes. An understanding of the nature and breeding habits of the mosquito can help check its growth. Pouring kerosene oil on the water surface destroys the larva as it is toxic to them. The disease (malaria) is itself cured by the use of drugs like quinine, which is a plant extract. In fact, several plants are the source of important drugs like morphine, penicillin etc.
Man has also benefited tremendously in the field of agriculture. Techniques of cultivation, cross breeding and genetic engineering have helped increase production, eliminate weak, unwanted characteristics and introduce healthier, disease-resistant varieties in crops, fruits and vegetables. Cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli are examples of improved varieties obtained from the wild cabbage. Selective breeding has also considerably improved livestock like sheep, cattle and poultry. This has naturally improved the yield of poultry food products like milk, meat and eggs. Increased knowledge about the plants and animals has contributed towards improving the health and longevity of the economically important plants and animals.
The silk industry, fisheries, bee-keeping etc. have grown largely due to information regarding habits and life cycle of insects and fishes. Knowing the migrating and egg-laying habits of fishes enables good catches from the inland and ocean waters. Fishery biology has also helped to rear food fishes on a large scale. Fishes are not only an important food item, but the basis for trade and commerce of many sea-faring countries.
Biology has brought to the attention of man the significance of our natural resources. There exists a vital interdependence of plants and animals. In harmony with each other, they maintain the ecological balance. Thus indiscriminate cutting down of trees and killing wild animals would upset this balance with disastrous results.
An advance in the field of science and technology is not without hazards. The rapid increase in industries, use of pesticides etc. have endangered human health. Industries release poisonous gases into the air and chemical wastes into rivers and lakes. Pesticides used to destroy plant pests accumulate in the grains and vegetables and rise to levels dangerous to human health. However, biology is helping us to recognize these problems and take steps against pollution.
Nature has always been a source of inspiration to mankind. Its appeal to man's aesthetic sense is almost universal. Many take up the study of nature as a means of developing an informal understanding of the flora and fauna that surrounds us. Nature instills in us a sense of wonder and is a constant source of amazement.

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