Physiology can trace its roots back more than two millennia to classical antiquity, to the Greek and Indian medical traditions. The critical thinking of Aristotle and his emphasis on the relationship between structure and function marked the beginning of physiology in Greece, while Claudius Galenus (c. 126-199), known as Galen, was the first to use experiments to probe the function of the body. The ancient Indian books of Ayurveda, the Sushruta Samhita and Charaka Samhita, also had descriptions on human anatomy and physiology.
During the Middle Ages, the ancient Greek and Indian medical traditions were further developed by Muslim physicians, most notably Avicenna (980-1037), who introduced experimentation and quantification into the study of physiology in The Canon of Medicine. Many of the ancient physiological doctrines were eventually discredited by Ibn al-Nafis (1213-1288), who was the first physician to correctly describe the anatomy of the heart, the coronary circulation, the structure of the lungs, and the pulmonary circulation, for which he is considered the father of circulatory physiology. He was also the first to describe the relationship between the lungs and the aeration of the blood, the cause of pulsation, and an early concept of capillary circulation.
Following from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance brought an increase of physiological research in the Western world that triggered the modern study of anatomy and physiology. Anatomist William Harvey described the circulatory system in the 17th century, demonstrating the fruitful combination of close observations and careful experiments to learn about the functions of the body, which was fundamental to the development of experimental physiology. Herman Boerhaave is sometimes referred to as a father of physiology due to his exemplary teaching in Leiden and textbook 'Institutiones medicae' (1708).
In the 19th century, physiological knowledge began to accumulate at a rapid rate, most...