Medical Encyclopedias

Medical Encyclopedias

 

scientific reference works designed for medical workers or for improving the medical knowledge of the people. Medical encyclopedias contain systematized medical knowledge and information on allied disciplines, such as biology and geography.

The precursors of medical encyclopedias were called compendiums of medical knowledge. The ancient Indian and Chinese compendiums (the Ayur-Veda, second millennium B.C., and the Nei Ching, third century B.C.) are considered the oldest. The Wai T’ai Pi Yao (40 vols., A.D. 752) and the Shen Tzu Tsun Lu (200 vols., A.D. 1111) are regarded as the first Chinese medical encyclopedias. The Synopsis of Oribasius (70 vols., Byzantium, fourth century A.D.) was the first European medical encyclopedia. Oribasius seems to have been the first European encyclopedist to take a broad range of readers into account. Thus, in addition to the main edition of the Synopsis, which was intended for physicians in all specialties, there was a 30-volume edition designed for individuals practicing medicine in places far from the centers of civilization and a ten-volume popular medical encyclopedia. The Colliget of Averroês (ibn Rushd; seven vols., c. A.D. 1180) circulated widely in Europe.

J. J. Manget’s medical encyclopedia (30 vols., 1732) must be considered the first original medical encyclopedia in Western Europe. Medical encyclopedias were published in the 19th century in France, Spain, Great Britain, and Germany. Only translated medical encyclopedias were published in prerevolutionary Russia. A. P. Lei attempted to produce an encyclopedia in Russian (the Encyclopedic Medical Lexicon, 1842-45), but he got no further than the term “nystagmus.”

After the October Revolution of 1917 the conditions for the successful development of medical encyclopedias were established. The Lesser Encyclopedia of Practical Medicine (six vols.), edited by V. P. Osipov, was published between 1927 and 1930. The Great Medical Encyclopedia (35 vols.), produced under the direction of N. A. Semashko, was published between 1928 and 1936. It contained 8396 articles, including about 80,000 terms. The Great Medical Encyclopedia was the first medical encyclopedia in which medical problems were discussed from the standpoint of dialectical materialism and the prevention of disease.

The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Military Medicine was issued between 1946 and 1950, and the Encyclopedic Medical Handbook for Military Physicians’ Assistants was published in 1953. These publications were a milestone in the history of Soviet military medicine, reflecting the experience gained by Soviet medicine during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45).

The three-volume Short Medical Encyclopedia (115,000 sets), which was published between 1972 and 1974, is intended primarily for secondary medical personnel. The information and practical instructions are sufficient to ensure the correct execution of all preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic, and other measures for which this category of medical workers is responsible. First aid for victims of accidents and natural disasters is described in especially great detail. There is also information on hygiene and epidemic control in everyday life and in industry as a matter of public preventive medicine.

The one-volume Popular Medical Encyclopedia is published periodically to improve public awareness of health measures. As of 1974, seven editions (a total of about 1.5 million copies) had been published. The specialized chief editorial board of the Great Medical Encyclopedia, which is under the auspices of the Academy of Medical Sciences of the USSR, and the Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia Publishing House are in charge of the preparation and publication of medical encyclopedias in the Soviet Union.

Most modern foreign medical encyclopedias are purely practical. Theoretical information is usually given only where required for orientation in the practical aspects of a particular subject. The encyclopedias generally contain no information on preventive or public medicine. Among these encyclopedias are the regularly updated (looseleaf type) Cyclopedia of Medicine, Surgery, Specialties (vols. 1-15, Philadelphia, 1955); the British Encyclopedia of Medical Practice (vols. 1-12, London, 1955-58), which is updated by the yearbooks Medical Progress and Cumulative Supplements; the Encyclopedia of General Practice (vols. 1-6, London, 1963-65); the Pratique medico-chirurgicale (vols. 1-10, Paris, 1953); and the Enciclopedia medica italiana (vols. 1-9, Florence, 1950-57).

The Medicinska Enciklopedija (vols. 1-10, Zagreb, 1957-65) and the Encyklopedie praktického lékařa (Prague, 1939-57, published in 11 separate fascicles) were attempts to combine clinical material with a great deal of theory and medical and social information. However, they focus mainly on the history, traditions, and achievements of medical science in the countries in which they are published. The French Encyclopedic medicochirurgicale, published continuously since 1932, is the most complete in the quantity of information presented, but it is essentially a collection of handbooks on various branches of theoretical and practical medicine.

Since the 1950’s there has been a tendency abroad to publish specialized medical encyclopedias, such as the Encyclopedia of Biochemistry (New York, 1967) and the Encyclopedia of Endocrinology (vols. 1-4, Montreal, 1943).

I. P. LIDOV

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