Functional Histology 2e

by: Jeffrey B. Kerr
2010, 490 pp + index, paperback, $84.95

Functional Histology, 2e, will appeal to medical, dental, and other students who require an introductory survey of human histology that correlates microscopic structure with function and clinical relevance.  Beginning students will find that the text, photomicrographs, and illustrations are well balanced to create an effective learning tool.  

The book will also appeal to those who may need to review normal histology as an accompaniment to studying histopathology.The reader will benefit from the addition of the “Origin of Tissue Types,” a chapter not found in other histology textbooks on the market.  Students will also appreciate that each chapter ends with a section about abnormalities or pathological disorders that demonstrate the clinical relevance of how knowledge of normal histology provides a better understanding of pathological conditions.

In addition to the expected standard chapters on the cell and individual organ systems, two chapters stand out.  The first is Chapter 2, “Origin of Tissue Types,” which reviews the early stages of development of the three germ layers from which the primary tissues are derived.  The addition of this chapter enhances students’ comprehension of the relationship of basic tissues and organ systems to their original embryonic germ layers and how the tissues are integrated into the general body plan.  The same chapter also provides an overview of the fundamental characteristics of cells, extracellular components, and multicellularity as found in tissues and organs that serves as a helpful “how to study histology” primer.

The second chapter of special interest covers the “Immune System.”  Most  current histology textbooks expand their chapter on lymphoid organs to include basic immunology; some are more successful than others.  The chapter on immunity in Functional Histology, 2e, is one of the successful ones and includes sections on innate immunity, adaptive immunity, and the lymphoid organs, themselves.  Addressing the topic of immunity in an histology textbook is difficult because advances in immunology are made continuously and it is a challenge to present the latest information on function with the basic organization of the lymphatic organs.  The author has done a good job of digesting complex information to present the fundamental concepts of immunity without running the risk of losing students in overwhelming details better left to immunology textbooks.

The pedagogical design of this book is excellent.  Each chapter begins with an overview that introduces the particular system and explains how that system contributes to the fabric of the body.  The main part of each chapter is organized into the headings and subheadings expected in most histology texts.  In this book, appropriate light and electron micrographs, line drawings, tables, and occasional photographs of gross specimens and radiographs are integrated into each specific section so as to create a compelling description of structure and function.  Each chapter ends with a section about clinical disorders of the system and summarizes the histopathology involved. 

The most outstanding feature of the book is the light micrographs and their accompanying legends.  The micrographs are in crisp focus and printed in beautifully balanced color saturation.  The good quality paper on which the book is printed enhances both the light and electron micrographs.  Additionally, line drawings in both two-dimensional and pseudo-three-dimensional perspectives illustrate fundamental concepts in simple but accurate figures printed in an attractive color palate.  The author has also included more photomicrographs than are found in other survey books, and there are several low power magnifications (e.g., X 6, X 12, X 30), as well as higher magnifications of sampled organs.  This larger selection of lower power micrographs is an important aid for students to learn how to recognize and differentiate between specific organs by their characteristic patterns of microscopic organization.  Photomicrographs are supported by well-constructed figure legends that are descriptive, informative, and summarize the concepts represented by the tissue sample.  One could imagine students using the photomicrographs as learning objects to create a self-study slide show by mentally recalling a sequence of images with respective legends.  

There are few negatives to report about the book.  It was not meant to be a reference text with specific topic bibliographies, but it is an excellent survey text presenting histological fundamentals.  Students and researchers who require more depth knowledge in specific areas would be best served by a more comprehensive textbook or an appropriate search of the primary research literature in their area of interest.  As with most printed materials, there are caveats, of course.  The book has the occasional transposition of adjacent figure legends and misplaced leader-lines.

Although there are a number of basic histology books on the market, this book has several advantages compared to most others.  Students and instructors will appreciate the book’s organization, excellent photomicrographs, and concise illustrations and tables.  In particular, the wider selection of photomicrographs of different magnifications of organ samples is a strong plus for this book.  There is also a better balance between pictures and illustrations with text detail compared to other textbooks.  Too often, either text detail or illustrative material is sacrificed.  Overall, Functional Histology, 2e, is an excellent learning resource, particularly for use in an integrated medical curriculum.


Kenneth H. Jones, Ph.D., Past Director, Division of Anatomy,
The Ohio State University College of Medicine

December 2011



Review Date

American Association of Anatomists

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