In their 2005 book, "Making Modern Science: A Historical Survey," Peter J. Bowler and Iwan Rhys Morus claim that a "new biology" came into existence in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and in fact, the word "biology" itself was not commonly used until this time. Prior to this period, the study of living things had been primarily conducted by naturalists utilizing observation in the field then categorizing their findings, and physicians utilizing dissection to study anatomy and physiology. But in the late nineteenth century biological scientists started an effort to steer their profession out of the field and into the lab. They wanted to raise the prestige of their science to equal the physical sciences such as chemistry and physics, whose knowledge came from experimentation. Early biologists wanted to know not only the physical traits, habitat, or feeding and breeding patterns of a species, but their internal structures and how they worked. And so they moved their focus of study into the laboratory where they developed new skills such as dissection and vivisection and armed with new technology in more complex microscopes and new analytical techniques they set out to not only know more about the categories of living things, but to understand how they develop, how they are formed, and how they function.
As the life sciences transitioned away from the observational work of the field and into the experimentation of the laboratory, the sciences of anatomy, morphology and physiology all played important roles. However, it was physiology, experimental physiology to be precise, which began to come to the forefront. While both anatomy and morphology provided important information regarding the physical structure and form of animals, scientists desired a deeper understanding of how those structures worked individually and together within a living organism.