What is Biology?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Biology is, quite simply, the scientific exploration and study of life. At the highest level, it includes categories based on the type of organism studied: zoology, botany, and microbiology. Each field has contributed to humanity in numerous ways such as improvements in agriculture, greater understanding of livestock and ecological systems, and the study of diseases. Modern biological studies largely center on the concepts of cell theory, evolution, gene theory, and homeostasis.

Botony is a branch of biology that focuses on plant life.
Botony is a branch of biology that focuses on plant life.

Three Major Categories

There are three major categories of study within biology, each related to a different type of life form. Zoology is the study of animals and includes just about anything from insects and fish to birds and human beings. Botany, on the other hand, focuses on plants of all types and sizes, including underwater forests, fungi, and trees. Microbiology is the study of microorganisms too small to be plainly seen and which escape categorization in the other two fields, such as viruses.

Microbiology focuses on organisms too small to see with the naked eye, like bacteria.
Microbiology focuses on organisms too small to see with the naked eye, like bacteria.

Other Subcategories

Besides classifications based on the type of organism being studied, biology contains many other specialized sub-disciplines, which may focus on just one type of organism or consider life from different categories. This includes biochemistry, which combines biological and chemical studies, and molecular biology, which looks at life on the molecular level. Cellular biology studies different types of cells and how they work, while physiology looks at organisms at the level of tissue and organs. Experts in ecology study the interactions between various organisms themselves within an environment, and those in ethology study the behavior of animals, especially complex animals in groups. Genetics, which overlaps somewhat with molecular studies, looks at the code of life, Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA).

Zoology is the study of animals, including butterflies and other insects.
Zoology is the study of animals, including butterflies and other insects.

Four Major Foundations of Study

The foundations of modern biology include four components beginning with cell theory, which states that fundamental units called cells make up all life. Evolution is the theory that life is not deliberately designed, but evolves incrementally over a great deal of time through random mutations and natural selection. Gene theory states that tiny molecular sequences of DNA dictate the entire structure of an organism, which pass from parents to offspring. Finally, homeostasis is the idea that each organism’s body includes a complex suite of processes designed to remain in harmony and preserve it against the entropic or destructive effects outside of the organism.

20th Century Developments

Much of the modern approach to biology started with the use of x-ray crystallography in the 1950s to capture a concrete image of DNA. Since then, there have been numerous refinements to the theories put forth, since life is complex and new information is almost constantly being discovered. In the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, a great deal of excitement centered on the sequencing of genomes and their comparison, called genomics. These advances have led to the creation of organisms or living tissue through custom-written DNA programming, called synthetic biology. Such fields are sure to continue grabbing attention as new developments push the limits of what is possible.

Biochemistry combines biological and chemical studies.
Biochemistry combines biological and chemical studies.
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime wiseGEEK contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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Discussion Comments

anon257072

What are the differences between biology and science?

anon232466

I don't understand much about biology but I try to love it because my profession is in line with this. I find this subject a tough one, something complicated but I'm very willing to learn much.

It is kind of boring, but it can be exciting and interesting in a while. Now, I'm planning to proceed in medicine so hope I will pick up biology easily.

anon230047

What is the usefulness of studying and knowing biology?

anon165733

I love biology and i want to learn more about biology.

anon149486

Looking forward to taking biology. I've never taken it before, just now finding out what it's all about!

Looking forward to the challenge. --Anthony R., Long Beach, Ca

anon137224

well i am form 3 and till now i think that biology is an interesting subject. i will try my best in studying it but sometimes it gets so boring. as i grow up i want to be a vet. i love animals. thanks.

anon135149

i don't know much about biology but yes i know one thing if our having the will to do something new then try this. it can make our mind sharper.

anon128000

what are the two greek words taken from the word of biology?

anon107759

biology is every day living. We eat, sleep and live biology.

anon103314

I don't understand very much biology but i think that if I think more and have it in my mind i will understand very much. i don't hate it and people don't need to hate it because is not my favorite class but it in future could be.

anon94608

I love biology though it is complicated with lot of things, but when you focus and do a lot of reading you will understand it. I want to be a professional medical doctor in the future. that is why i love this course.

anon91577

i want to learn more about biology.

anon65398

i love biology because when i grow up i want to work in chemistry and when you want to work somewhere like that you've got to do things that you've got to do. yes it is a mind twisting subject but you've got to learn things quickly.

anon63762

biology makes you think.

anon62115

If the past century was ruled by physics and chemistry and mathematics, then the modern century rocks and is ruled by the god subject biology. I love it.

anon58879

i am section 1 and today is my first lesson of biology,anyone whom see my comment, please tell me if bio is hard.

anon58370

i love biology so much but i don´t know what i will be after i finish the course.

anon56594

biology is confusing and i hate it

anon53499

i have studed o-level for about wo years but i have not understood biology till now.

anon53454

I love biology. All in all God has this credit.

anon52578

biology is a mind twisting subject.

anon49586

biology is interesting but it's so boring to have to lisetn to it in school. how many branches of biology are there anyway?

anon48874

I hate biology!

anon48801

i love biology.

anon48489

I love biology; it is an amazing topic. You learn about how humans are delevoped so well and how nature is so beautiful. :) biology is awesome!

anon48221

biology is a beautiful science, that can show why is there a God behind every living thing on earth. It can take you to the level where you're able to say how wonderful and mighty is God, our lord Jesus Christ. Many people who study biology can't surrender their lives to the Lord even though they've seen and studied his wonderful deeds. He deserves all glory and honor forever and ever. amen

anon47060

I hate biology! Gosh!

anon46382

i love biology.

anon45210

biology is the best.

anon41074

why is biology so complicated?

anon29829

anon24114, there are countless numbers of branches because the very topic of life encompasses so many things. To become an expert in any one of those things requires exacting specifications in study and in research.

anon28013

Who is a famous biologist?

anon24114

why are there so many branches for biology?

anon14378

how many branches of biology are there?

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