Southern Illinois University



How to Use Histology Web Pages

In these web-pages you will find extensively hyper-linked notes and images summarizing the basics of tissue organization in the human body.  

The width of your browser window may need to be adjusted for optimal viewing.  (Pages were originally formatted for old cathode-ray screens.  They may appear stretched if viewed at full width on a high-resolution, wide-screen LED display.)

The organization of this material follows the organization of the SIU School of Medicine Year One Curriculum.

Purpose and design for this resource (pdf file).

  • Many images illustrate specimens from non-human species.   Although the principal subject of these webpages is human histology, these images are representative of mammalian histology generally (including human).  Some details may depart from the human condition.  The source for most micrographs is a decades-old collection of commercially-prepared slides (mostly purchased from Turtox); some of these tissue specimens come from non-human mammals. 
  • All images have been digitally manipulated.  This includes routine adjustment of color balance, contrast, and sharpness.  In some cases, image details have been modified to emphasize selected features or to minimize distracting artefacts.
  • This resource is NOT comprehensive.  Many details of anatomy and differentiated cell appearance are not represented here.
    See Other Tissues for a partial list.

These notes are an ancillary resource, NOT a substitute for textbooks for time spent studying real specimens with a microscope.  If you use this on-line study aid, please refer to your textbooks and atlases for richer, more detailed information.  (Rhodin's An Atlas of Histology (in the MRC) should be considered an essential resource, since this website does not include electron micrographs.)

This histology resource is divided into four major blocks (see top of this page).  

  • The HISTO HOME page provides links to each unit.
  • The INTRO block provides basic essentials for further understanding.  
  • The remaining three blocks offer material specific to the three curricular units:
    • CRR = Cardiovascular, Respiratory, and Renal.
    • SSB = NMB = Sensorimotor Systems and Behavior (includes nervous tissue, muscle, and skeletal tissues).
    • ERG = Endocrine, Reproductive (male and female), and Gastrointestinal.

  • Each unit opens with an index page.
  • Each index page links to Study Guides for particular topics.

    • Highlighted keywords link to definitions, explanations, or examples.  
    • Extensive cross-links allow access to the same basic information from several different directions.  
    • Thumbnail images (see example at right) are links to larger, labelled images with additional notes.  (To browse images, see the image index.)
    • self-assessment materials are available.
    • These pages are designed for browsing.  You are encouraged to follow links from topic to topic as desired.  Your browser's "BACK" button may be most convenient for returning.
    • At the top of each page is a menu bar linking to related index pages.  The HISTO HOME page always provides a starting point to find major topics.
    • Since hyperlinks are an essential feature, these web pages are intended only for on-line use.

Emphasis throughout is on normal histology, although illustrative examples of pathologic histology are presented occasionally.



Additional Resources

texts   /   atlases   /    reference books  /  access to literature

Historical notes
(with links to facsimiles of some pioneering publications)

Online resources and virtual microscopy

Texts.  The following recommendations are dated, but these older editions of histology texts retain much of their value.  The following are examples of good introductory texts, all roughly equivalent in depth and coverage, appropriate for the level of understanding expected in our current year-one curriculum.  Each student should have ready access to a text at this level.  

Mescher, Junqueira's Basic Histology:  Text & Atlas, 13th ed. (2013).

Ross & Pawlina, Histology:  A Text and Atlas, 6th ed. (2011).

Kierszenbaum, Histology and Cell Biology:  An Introduction to Pathology,  3nd edition (2011).  Includes extensive correlates with biochemistry / cell biology / pathology; very dry style.

Stevens & Lowe, Human Histology, 3rd ed. (2005).
Concise, with illustrative pathology but minimal physiology.

Young, Lowe, Stevens & Heath, Wheater's Functional Histology:  A Text and Colour Atlas, 5th ed. (2006).  Emphasizes tissue function as well as structure.

Telser, A. G. et al. Elsevier's Integrated Histology, (2007). Concise, includes cross-references to other disciplines

NOTE:  For nervous tissue, chapters 2 and 4 in Kandel, Schwartz, & Jessell, Principles of Neural Science, 4th ed., are recommended, with chapters 3 and 5 through 9 for additional detail.

Your choice of a text at this level may be based on availability or on personal preference for style (which can differ markedly among texts).  

Atlases.  The following recommendations are dated, but these older editions of histology atlases retain their value.  Just as a single snapshot cannot the convey the impact of a landscape or the personality of friend, so a single micrograph is seldom sufficient to catch the full character of a tissue.  Since any given text typically illustrates each organ/region with only one or two images, students are encouraged to view several sources for multiple images.  Histology atlases (some are examples listed below) are quite useful for this purpose.  Personal ownership of an atlas should not be necessary; several different atlases are available in the MRC.

Rhodin, An Atlas of Histology (1976).
This is an excellent source for electron microscope images, organized by organ system.  Note that each section begins with low-magnification images and leads through higher and higher magnification, making it easy to appreciate images in organ and tissue context.  This book is usefully kept alongside your light microscope and treated as if it were an "extra-high power" objective.  Although this book is out of print, multiple copies are available in the MRC.  

Leboffe, A Photographic Atlas of Histology, 2nd edition (2013), ISBN-13: 9781617310683.

Ross, Pawlina & Barnash, Atlas of Descriptive Histology (2009), ISBN 978-0-87893-696-0.

Berman & Milikowski, Color Atlas of Basic Histology, 3rd edition (2003).

Milikowski & Berman, Color Atlas of Basic Histopathology (1997).
An excellent resource for images of particular pathologies.

Gartner & Hiatt. Color Atlas of Histology, 5th edition, 2009<.

[These are only examples.  Any book labelled as a "atlas" of histology should offer a useful collection of images, for comparison and contrast with other sources and with real specimens.]  

References. The following recommendations are dated, but these older editions retain their value.  The following texts are much more substantial than typical introductory texts (heavier, much more detail, 1200 vs. 400 pp.).  These are better for reference than for introductory exposure.  Students should be aware that such resources exist, but personal ownership is not recommended.  

Stevens et al., Wheater's Basic Histopathology. 4th edition, 2002.  Concise introduction to the application of histology to pathology.  May be appropriate if you have already had a course in histology, or if you wish to read beyond the basics of normal histology.

Mills, Histology for Pathologists, 3rd ed. (2007).  This 3rd edition of Sternberg's text (next entry, below) has less emphasis on normal histology than the previous 2nd edition.

Sternberg, Histology for Pathologists, 2nd ed. (1998).  Excellent source for details of normal histology that are not included in most introductory texts.

Kumar, Abbas, Fausto & Aster, Robbins & Cotran's Pathologic Basis of Disease, 8th ed. (2010).  The classic textbook for pathology.

Fawcett, Textbook of Histology, 12th ed. (2001).


Access to literature.  Histology as a scientific discipline has deep roots, beginning in the early 1800s.  Although internet searching can readily discover recent research papers, the accumulated results from nearly two hundred years of microscopic research are not yet adequately represented on the internet.  And, unfortunately, "starter" lists of older references (which were once a standard feature of histology texts) have fallen out of favor in newer "lightweight" popular texts.  For initial access to primary research reports in the scientific literature (often by way of secondary reviews), check the chapter-by-chapter listings in the following older texts.  At least some of these volumes should be accessible in any good university library.

Weiss, Leon., Histology: Cell and Tissue Biology, 5th ed., Elsevier Science Publ., New York (1983) [also earlier editions, by Greep, Roy O.; by Greep & Weiss; and by Weiss & Greep].

Bloom, W., & Fawcett, Don W., A Textbook of Histology, 11th ed., Saunders (1986) [also numerous earlier editions, initially without Fawcett].

Cormack, David H., Ham's Histology, 9th ed., Lippincott (1987) [also earlier editions by Ham, Arthur W., and by Ham & Cormack].

Bailey, Frederick R., A Textbook of Histology (1906) [also later editions, Bailey's Textbook of Histology, with various coauthors].

Kölliker, R.A., Handbuch der Gewebelehre des Menschen, 6th edition (1902).  "Too much praise cannot be given to the bibliographical notices, which are far more complete than are to be found in any other work on histology" (quote from a contemporary review in Nature).  Kölliker is known as "the father of modern histology."

Comments and questions:

SIUC / School of Medicine / Anatomy / David King
Last updated:  15 June 2022 / dgk