Human Morphology

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Morphology, Human


(1) In the broad sense, the study of the structure of the human body in connection with its development and vital activity; it includes human anatomy, embryology, and histology.

(2) In the narrow sense, the branch of physical anthropology that studies the variations of age and sex and ethnoterritorial, constitutional, occupational, and other features of the human body and of its individual parts and organs. Methods of morphological research are used in ethnophysical anthropology and in the study of anthropogenesis. Without morphological data it is impossible to determine properly the similarities and differences between human races or to understand the history of the formation of races; it would also be impossible to evaluate the relationship between contemporary man and his fossil ancestors.

Human morphology is conventionally divided into two subdivisions: merology, or anatomical anthropology, which studies the variations and relationships of individual organs and tissues, and somatology, which studies the variation and the interdependence of structural features of the entire living human body. Merology usually studies the integuments of the human body, the external parts of the sense organs, the viscera, teeth, vessels, muscles, the skeleton and skull, and the brain. Somatology studies the total dimensions of the body (height and weight, chest circumference, surface area and volume) and their interrelationships, body proportions, external forms of individual parts of the body, sex characteristics, certain blood characteristics, and constitutional features.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s much research was conducted on human age morphology, especially the problem of acceleration. The use of physical and chemical analysis in morphological research makes it possible to obtain data on the body composition, that is, on the tissue components that constitute the body of a living human being. The relation between morphological features and biochemical, physiological, and endocrinological characteristics, the genetics of morphological features, and the influence of environmental factors on human morphology are also being studied. Morphological data are widely used in anthropological standardization and in biotechnology, for example, in the design of consumer goods for size and scale and in the planning of work areas for optimal convenience and maximum utilization.


Roginskii, la. la., and M. G. Levin. Antropologiia, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1963.
Biologiia cheloveka. Moscow, 1968. (Translated from English.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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