Biology and the life sciences examine all types of living organisms from cells to plants, animals, and humans. Biologists and life scientists explore the different aspects of organisms including their development, function, and reproductive systems.
Within the life sciences are a myriad of fields, including botany, horticulture, and zoology. And, within these fields are subspecialties. For example, horticulture includes the areas of landscape design, greenhouse management, and fruit and vegetable production.
The origins of the life sciences date back to the ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Indian peoples, while the roots of modern biology, which is considered a relatively new development, stem from developments in ancient Greece. The study of nature can be traced to Hippocrates’ interests in medicine, Aristotle’s naturalist tendencies, and Theophrastus’ fascination with botany.
A major breakthrough occurred in the 17th and 18th centuries when Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the Dutch microscopist and scientist, refined and improved the microscope. His ability to grind lenses produced magnification levels of 270 times—a great achievement for the time—and yielded the discoveries of bacteria, blood cells, and spermatozoa. Further refinements in microscopic instruments and techniques led to staining and dissection. By the early 1800s biologists were focusing their attention on the cell as the basic unit of an organism. But it would take another 150 years and many more scientific contributions before James Watson and Francis Crick uncovered the double helical structure of DNA, marking the beginning of the field of molecular genetics. The Human Genome Project, which began in 1990, amassed a globalized cadre of scientific labs to discover all the human genes and make them accessible for study.
Today’s life scientists are primarily involved in research and development. They work in the laboratory or field, and enjoy a wide range of employment opportuni...