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Introduction to Biology by Elizabeth Mattson

iology is the study of all living forms, plants and animals, including man, as individuals and as interdependent entities. To the biologist, who is in the First place and above all a natural scientist- the Human being is an object of scientific investigation : a very highly specialized protoplasmic structure, reflecting in his life process the activity of all living animal structures. 

Biology demonstrates the total and absolute dependence of man the human animal, on all other forms of life.  Biology covers so vast a field that, to make for greater accuracy and greater ease of studying biology, It has been divided into logical subdivisions or branches. Each subdivision is so vast a field that a lifetime of study may be devoted to each.


Depending upon his interests, the biologic scientist specializes in a single phase-if in animals: ZOOLOGY, if in plant life, BOTANY, if in the Development of the individual from the "fertilized egg" stage through Early stages of life, EMBRYOLOGY, if in the structure of the human body, ANATOMY; if in the functions of the body: PHYSIOLOGY.

Another vital biological science is GENETICS, which explains the phenomena of heredity. For microscope work, there is CYTOLOGY, the science of cell structure and function, or HISTOLOGY, the science of living tissues.  PROTOZOOLOGY is a branch of Biology which deals with One-celled animal life; BACTERIOLOGY is a science of one-celled plant life.

Another important and fascinating branch of Biology is ECOLOGY, the study of the relationship of living things to their environment.   Frequently, a person who studies Biology from intellectual curiosity becomes intensely interested in a particular division and makes it his hobby or even his lifework, his profession. Biology is the basis of such professions as Medicine, Nursing, Agriculture, plant and Animal Breeding and even Pharmacy.

How shall we acquaint ourselves with the living world around us?  Constant awareness coupled with the curiosity and desire to "dig deeper" will make our immediate surroundings a field and a laboratory for studying Life. A small patch of back yard, a vacant lot, even a window box will provide a field for "exploration"; as will the public park, a local wooded area, or the seashore, crowded with plant and animal life for us to observe.

The city streets, for all their concrete pavements and huge structures, have some trees and foliage to watch as they bud in the spring, blossom in the summer, change color in the fall and become bare in the winter.  Even in the heart of the city, one hears the birds which nest nearby or pass through on their migrations. Or one sees an earthworm crawling on the pavement after a heavy rain has driven it out of the soil beneath the
pavement.  Where there are human beings there must be other forms of plant and animal life.

One of the most famous ENTOMOLOGISTS (a biologist who specializes in the study of insects), Jean Henry Faber, did most of his field work in his own back yard or in some close by field.  He spent hours watching insects in their daily activities and making notes of his observation.

While some biologists explore the lands, the waters and the skies, others prefer to work in the laboratory, the "workshop" of the scientist.  If well equipped, this will have running water in a sink, connections for gas, non corrosive table tops (usually stone) with air pressure, vacuum, and electricity outlets.  In addition there will be glass beakers, jars, flasks, test tubes, bottles, porcelain, crucibles, and shelves for various basic chemicals.  There will probably be an oven or an incubator, a pressure cooker, and even a refrigerator in some handy place.  A well stocked library of reference books in every branch of Biology is essential.

The Individual who has no access to such a lab. Can build one of his own, using materials bought in department stores or even found on the kitchen shelf or in the medicine cabinet.  Actual kitchen appliances such as the stove, the pressure cooker, and the refrigerator can be very useful.  One can always use cardboard boxes or wooden cheese boxes to house small animals (hamsters, white mice, guinea pigs, insects) for study.  One can always plant a window box garden or even a "pocket garden" in a drinking glass to study the growth of a seedling or a sweet potato vine or an avocado pit.  IT is simple to leave a moist piece of bread or fruit in a warm spot in the house so that mold can grow and flourish.

With this simple equipment, you can think scientifically and experiment.  There are certain steps which a scientist follows, without bias or preconception and in logical order, when thinking scientifically. This is known as the Scientific method.
     1. First recognize and state clearly the problem to be solved or the
question to be answered.
      2. Concentrate on one part of the problem at a time
      3. Collect accurate and complete information from reliable sources.
      4. Test this information with new ideas of your own.
      5. Answer the question or draw conclusions.

The scientist forms a HYPOTHESIS- a proposition which although it remains to be tested under controlled, experimental conditions, seems to him the probable explanation of the phenomenon in question. 

If subsequent experiments support the hypothesis, it will become the basis of scientific theory, which may in turn be accepted as NATURAL LAW, if it is observed to occur without failure or variation in nature.  In every experiment all becoming very science-conscious.  Our curiosity and interest are constantly stimulated.  Many newspapers have a a science column, frequently biological in nature.  Current science news, science facts and advice are presented so that they can be understood and appreciated by the average reader.

There are science digest, science magazines, radio and television broadcasts for the express purpose of informing the average individual.  They attempt to whet his desire to seek further information.

The federal government will send literature, on written request, which will provide the most current material on many phases of biology.  Write to the Department of Interior and to the Department of Agriculture for a list of their pamphlets on the branch of biology in which you are intrusted.  These booklets may be sent to you free of charge or at a nominal cost.  

Among the greatest storehouses of biologic wealth are our museums, our botanical and zoological gardens.  In New York City, the Museum of natural history houses the "story of life" from times historic to modern, with predictions of the future.  There are life sized models, lifelike and  accurate in every minute detail, set in carefully studied, stimulated natural habitats.  There are miniatures and fossilized remains.  In this museum one can learn just by observing the exhibits, reading the "cards" and listening to the lecturing guides, the entire field of biology with its related subjects.  There are such museums in most large cities and universities throughout the country.  So, too, with "zoos,  zoological gardens.

Spend a day in the springtime at the botanical garden.  Take your camera with you, make mental pictures as well of early spring green, of tall plants as well. Of early spring green, of delicate new leaves fresh out of their buds, of pastel-colored blossoms-especially on the fruit trees, on vines and growing from the moist ground.  Walk through the hot houses and see the vast variety of plant life which exists in climates other then yours. Smell the Heavily fragrant, moist air. See the mist that halos the foliage and the damp rich solid from which it grows.  Learn about plant life from growing plants.

"The Cloisters," an adjunct to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Fort Tryon Park, New York City, has a series of tapesteries, the 'unicorn Tapestries," that are well known not only for the magnificence of their craftmanship, design and color but for their craftsmanship, design and color but for their woven pictures of every plant known in the Middle Ages.  In this "imported" monastery are the Gardens of the Monks in which may be found odd flowering plants every known herb oddly cultured trees and many other forms of botanic life. 

In Cities other then New York, in many other states in the US, there are museums and collections of both living and preserved forms of plants and animals-for example, mainland, Silver Springs, and the Everglades in Lower Florida, The National Parks of the West, The Hills and Valley of Northern Greece, The Mountains of Peru, the Great Barrier reefs of Australia and the White Shore cliffs found in Africa.


Elizabeth A. Mattson is and presently teaching Biological sciences for America On Line and Blackboard Com.  Full Introductory classes are 8 weeks long with an 8 week Extention for Most of the classes.  Click here for the full course.

Elizabeth has a BS in Biology, an AA, in Organic Chemistry, a BA In Organizational Management and is presently working on my MBA from Colorado University In Grand Juntion.



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