EK -- Medicine


Meilensteine der Medizin [Milestones in Medicine]. Ed. Heinz Schott. Dortmund: Harenberg, 1996. 687 p. ill. 23 cm. p. 594-644: "Biographisches Lexikon" [Biographical Lexicon]. ISBN 3-611-00536-3: DM 68.00

Though touted by its publisher as "both a reader and a reference book," this history of medicine in 82 sections written by 57 prominent German experts is clearly stronger as a collection of articles than as a source of reference information. Only the 50-page "biographical lexicon," with its brief sketches of 220 prominent historical figures, might qualify it for inclusion on the shelves of reference collections. Reference book or not, the title is also problematic, suggesting as it does a chronology or compilation of great moments and discoveries. In fact, however, though covering en passant numerous "milestones," this is hardly at the focus of the thoughtful articles assembled here. Instead, they serve a different calling, disclosing the complex relationships between medicine, social history, and the other social sciences.

The topics covered in this volume span the entire history of medical practice, from "Earliest Traces of Operations: Repairs to the Skull in the Early Stone Age" to "Health for All by the Year 2000? The Limits of Medicine and the Challenges of Ethnomedicine." At the end of each article there is a list of names which one can look up in the biographical section. This biographical apparatus lacks references to the literature, but immediately following it (p. 645-670) there is a bibliography making reference to sources and secondary literature respectively, mostly works of German provenance. The volume is richly and attractively illustrated, often in color. This is an appealing and informative book for the interested layperson, but that belongs in circulating collections rather than the reference section of the library. For an actual German-language chronology, one might better turn to the same author's popularly presented Chronik der Medizin (Dortmund: Chronik, 1993). A more extensive biographical work would be Ärztelexikon: von der Antike bis zum 20. Jahrhundert, edited by Wolfgang U. Eckart and Christoph Gradmann (Munich: Beck, 1995). [sh/jg]

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