An extract on #reiseblogger
All vertebrates have a similar basic body plan and at some point in their lives, mostly in the embryonic stage, share the major chordate characteristics; a stiffening rod, the notochord; a dorsal hollow tube of nervous material, the neural tube; pharyngeal arches; and a tail posterior to the anus. The spinal cord is protected by the vertebral column and is above the notochord and the gastrointestinal tract is below it. Nervous tissue is derived from the ectoderm, connective tissues are derived from mesoderm, and gut is derived from the endoderm. At the posterior end is a tail which continues the spinal cord and vertebrae but not the gut. The mouth is found at the anterior end of the animal, and the anus at the base of the tail. The defining characteristic of a vertebrate is the vertebral column, formed in the development of the segmented series of vertebrae. In most vertebrates the notochord becomes the nucleus pulposus of the intervertebral discs. However, a few vertebrates, such as the sturgeon and the coelacanth retain the notochord into adulthood. Jawed vertebrates are typified by paired appendages, fins or legs, which may be secondarily lost. The limbs of vertebrates are considered to be homologous because the same underlying skeletal structure was inherited from their last common ancestor. This is one of the arguments put forward by Charles Darwin to support his theory of evolution.
In the United States, medical schools began to be set up towards the end of the 18th century. Classes in anatomy needed a continual stream of cadavers for dissection and these were difficult to obtain. Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York were all renowned for body snatching activity as criminals raided graveyards at night, removing newly buried corpses from their coffins. A similar problem existed in Britain where demand for bodies became so great that grave-raiding and even anatomy murder were practised to obtain cadavers. Some graveyards were in consequence protected with watchtowers. The practice was halted in Britain by the Anatomy Act of 1832, while in the United States, similar legislation was enacted after the physician William S. Forbes of Jefferson Medical College was found guilty in 1882 of "complicity with resurrectionists in the despoliation of graves in Lebanon Cemetery".
The teaching of anatomy in Britain was transformed by Sir John Struthers, Regius Professor of Anatomy at the University of Aberdeen from 1863 to 1889. He was responsible for setting up the system of three years of "pre-clinical" academic teaching in the sciences underlying medicine, including especially anatomy. This system lasted until the reform of medical training in 1993 and 2003. As well as teaching, he collected many vertebrate skeletons for his museum of comparative anatomy, published over 70 research papers, and became famous for his public dissection of the Tay Whale. From 1822 the Royal College of Surgeons regulated the teaching of anatomy in medical schools. Medical museums provided examples in comparative anatomy, and were often used in teaching. Ignaz Semmelweis investigated puerperal fever and he discovered how it was caused. He noticed that the frequently fatal fever occurred more often in mothers examined by medical students than by midwives. The students went from the dissecting room to the hospital ward and examined women in childbirth. Semmelweis showed that when the trainees washed their hands in chlorinated lime before each clinical examination, the incidence of puerperal fever among the mothers could be reduced dramatically.
Before the modern medical era, the main means for studying the internal structures of the body were dissection of the dead and inspection, palpation and auscultation of the living. It was the advent of microscopy that opened up an understanding of the building blocks that constituted living tissues. Technical advances in the development of achromatic lenses increased the resolving power of the microscope and around 1839, Matthias Jakob Schleiden and Theodor Schwann identified that cells were the fundamental unit of organization of all living things. Study of small structures involved passing light through them and the microtome was invented to provide sufficiently thin slices of tissue to examine. Staining techniques using artificial dyes were established to help distinguish between different types of tissue. Advances in the fields of histology and cytology began in the late 19th century along with advances in surgical techniques allowing for the painless and safe removal of biopsy specimens. The invention of the electron microscope brought a great advance in resolution power and allowed research into the ultrastructure of cells and the organelles and other structures within them. About the same time, in the 1950s, the use of X-ray diffraction for studying the crystal structures of proteins, nucleic acids and other biological molecules gave rise to a new field of molecular anatomy.
Equally important advances have occurred in non-invasive techniques for examining the interior structures of the body. X-rays can be passed through the body and used in medical radiography and fluoroscopy to differentiate interior structures that have varying degrees of opaqueness. Magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, and ultrasound imaging have all enabled examination of internal structures, living or dead, in unprecedented detail to a degree far beyond the imagination of earlier generations.