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pathology, study of the cause of disease and the modifications in cellular function and changes in cellular structure produced in any cell, organ, or part of the body by disease. The changes in tissue include degeneration, atrophy, hypertrophy, hyperplasia, and inflammation. The microscope is an important factor in detecting tissue changes, especially in the examination of small sections of tissue removed for diagnosis (biopsy); for this reason real progress in pathology was not made until the 19th cent. Other diagnostic techniques for testing body fluids and tissues for abnormal composition or metabolisms are electronmicroscopy, immunocytochemistry, and molecular pathologies.


See E. R. Long, A History of Pathology (1962, repr. 1965); W. A. Anderson and T. M. Scotti, Synopsis of Pathology (8th ed. 1972); L. V. Crowley, Introductory Concepts in Pathology (1972); L. Crowley, Introduction to Human Disease (1989).

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a multidisciplinary science that deals with the etiology, development, and outcome of diseases and individual pathological processes in man and animals.

The beginnings of pathology can be found in the speculative teachings of ancient medicine on humoral and solidistic pathology. At first, the methods of pathology consisted solely of bedside observation and systematization and generalization of practical medical experience, since until the mid-19th century pathology developed as the theoretical branch of clinical medicine. At the beginning of the 17th century, the term “general pathology” came into use to designate the system of ideas that had been established on the essential nature and causes of disease. Study of the causes, mechanism of development, and course of individual diseases was the role of special pathology. As the body of medical knowledge grew and became more specialized, special pathology as one of the branches of a theoretical discipline—pathology—continued to be the focus of scientific research, but as a subject matter to be taught it was included in the corresponding clinical disciplines. For example, the special pathology of nervous diseases was taught under neuropathology.

The method of comparing clinical observations with pathologicoanatomical findings, which was introduced by several scientists, for example, G. Morgagni, and K. Rokitansky, gave rise in the second half of the 18th century to pathological anatomy, among whose earliest successes was the discovery of the underlying physical cause of many diseases as reflected in macroscopic and microscopic changes in organs and tissues. In the mid-19th century, R. Virchow’s theory that “all pathology is cellular pathology” related ideas about disease to concrete changes in the structure of cells and organs, and the result was the emergence of anatomical localization as the dominant approach to the study of disease.

The pathologicomorphological line of research as supported by experimental, histological, and biochemical studies was effectively developed in Russia by several schools, including those of A. I. Polunin, M. M. Rudnev, N. A. Khrzhonshchevskii, and V. V. Podvysotskii. The shortcomings of certain descriptive methods in uncovering the etiologic and pathogenetic patterns of pathological processes and organismic responses were evident to many of Virchow’s contemporaries, who were promoters of the study of the ailing human organism as an integral whole.

Advances in physiology promoted the development of functional pathology and the introduction of experimental physiological methods of investigating the etiology and pathogenesis of disease. The foundations of experimental pathology were established by the British surgeon J. Hunter in the second half of the 18th century and by later researchers, notably F. Magendie, A. M. Filomafitskii, S. P. Botkin, and C. Bernard. During the second half of the 19th century, experimental pathology evolved into a new scientific discipline—pathophysiology—under the influence of V. V. Pashutin, A. B. Fokht, and others.

Studies on biochemical and physicochemical phenomena in the ailing body, notably the work of E. S. London, gave rise to medical chemistry. I. I. Mechnikov established the bases of comparative and evolutionary pathology and the general biological trend in pathology to focus on the biological principles that govern the origin of pathological processes. The further development of this trend in the works of many scientists, including L. A. Tarasevich, G. P. Sakharov, A. A. Bogomolets, N. N. Sirotinin, and I. V. Davydovskii, was applied to discovering the fundamental patterns and mechanisms that underlie adaptability in the sick. The trend also was applied to developing the concept of reactivity from the standpoint of evolutionary theory. In the 20th century paleopathology—the study of pathological changes in extinct organisms, early man, and ancient animals—has become an independent science. Human pathology as it is affected by geographical factors is studied under geopathology and medical geography. The adverse effects of socioeconomic factors and occupational hazards on human health are the concern of social medicine and occupational medicine.

The major concerns of modern pathology are the general study of disease; reactivity; microcirculatory pathology and the pathology of permeability of biological membranes; mechanisms by which vital functions are impaired or restored; and mechanisms of adaptation. Work in these areas is especially promising owing to the high technical level of the research. Experimental results are compared with pathomorphological and clinical data, and histochemical and cytochemical methods are extensively used. Other major technical breakthroughs include electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction analysis, autoradiography, and special kinds of microphotography and motion-picture photography that rely on ultrahigh-speed and slow-motion techniques and on laser technology. These techniques make it possible to study the initial stages, ultrastructure, and genetic basis of pathological processes, thereby encouraging the development of a new branch of pathology, molecular pathology.

The first societies of pathologists were organized in New York (1844) and London (1846). The Society of Pathologists was founded in St. Petersburg in 1909, and the Russian Society of Pathologists was founded in 1922. The First All-Russian Congress of Pathologists was held in 1923 in Petrograd, and the First All-Union Congress of Pathologists was held in 1927 in Kiev. The principal international organizations of pathologists include the World Association of Societies of Anatomic and Clinical Pathology (since 1947), the International Council of Societies of Pathology (since 1950), the International Academy of Pathology (since 1955), and the European Society of Pathology (since 1954). International congresses of pathologists have been held since 1948.

The first journal to deal with pathology was Virchows Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und für Klinische Medizin. It first appeared in 1847, and today it is published in two series: Series A, Pathologische Anatomie, and Series B, Zellpathologie. The principal specialized periodicals that are published in the USSR are Arkhiv patologii (since 1935), Patologicheskaia fiziologiia i eksperimental’naia terapiia (since 1957), and Biulleten’ eksperimental’noi biologii i meditsiny (since 1936).


Mechnikov, I. I. Lektsii o sravnitel’noi patologii vospaleniia. St. Petersburg, 1892.
Podvysotskii, V. V. Osnovy obshchei i eksperimental’noi patologii, 4th ed. St. Petersburg, 1905.
Speranskii A. D. Elementy postroeniia teorii meditsiny. Moscow, 1937.
Anichkov, N. N. “O putiakh razvitiia sravnitel’noi patologii i ee znachenie dlia biologii i meditsiny.” Izv. AN SSR, Ser. biol., 1945, no. 2, p. 160.
Davydovskii, I. V. Obshchaiia patologiia cheloveka, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1969.
Kaznacheev, V. P., and M. Ia. Subbotin. Etiudy k teorii obshchei patologii. Novosibirsk, 1971.
Avtandilov, G. G. Morfometriia v patologii. Moscow, 1973.
Virchow, R. Die Cellularpathologie in ihrer Begründung auf physiologische und pathologische Gewebelehre, 2nd ed. Berlin, 1859.
Handbuch der allgemeinen Pathologie, vols. 1–2. Edited by L. Krehl and F. Marchand. Leipzig, 1908–13.
Karsner, H. T. Human Pathology, 8th ed. Philadelphia-Montreal, 1955.
Prolegomena einer allgemeinen Pathologie. Berlin, 1969.
Horst, A. Patologia molekularna, 2nd ed. Warsaw, 1970.


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


The study of the causes, nature, and effects of diseases and other abnormalities.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. the branch of medicine concerned with the cause, origin, and nature of disease, including the changes occurring as a result of disease
2. the manifestations of disease, esp changes occurring in tissues or organs
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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