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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Winter 2000

Book Reviews

World of Scientific Discovery

Sarah Kolda
Marian Koshland Bioscience and Natural Resources Library
University of California, Berkeley
skolda@library.berkeley.edu

World of Scientific Discovery. 2nd ed. Kimberly A. McGrath, editor. Detroit, MI : Gale Research, 1999. 1186 p. hardcover $85.00 (ISBN 0-7876-2760-7)
Where do you send library users who are interested in investigating a notable scientific discovery or scientist? World of Scientific Discovery may be just the place to start, especially if they are interested in the process of the discovery, rather than detailed technical explanations of scientific concepts. Written at a high school reading level, this reference text has over 1300 alphabetically arranged entries of notable scientific discoveries and scientists, from absolute zero to zirconium, and John Jacob Abel to Fritz Zwicky.

There are fourteen fields of focus: Agriculture, Astronomy, Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Sciences and Ecology, Geology, Mathematics, Medicine/Health Sciences, Meteorology, Musical Instruments, Oceanography, Pharmacology, and Physics. A few of the entries are devoted to the most important scientific discoveries of prehistory and antiquity, but the majority of the entries focus on discoveries of the 16th century to the present day. Each biographical entry provides birth and death dates, nationality, and field of expertise, as well as details about the scientist's work, while most discovery entries encompass basic facts about the discovery as well as its place in overall history and its social impact. A couple of nice touches are the bold-faced terms within each entry and the cross-reference terms at the end of each entry that lead the user to other relevant discoveries or scientists. For example, the entry for the American physicist Richard Feynman includes the bold-faced term quantum electrodynamics, a sub-specialty field of particle physics (and a discovery entry in the book).

Although there are other reference texts strictly devoted to the contributions of women and minorities in science which a librarian would probably consult first, minorities and women are fairly well represented in the text. The black and white illustrations in the book are mainly portraits of the featured scientists. A subject index at the end lists discovery and biographical entries by fields of focus, while a general index directs the reader to all topics and persons mentioned in the book. The "Sources Consulted" section at the end of the text is not comprehensive, but does list the major sources used in the compilation of the text.

Overall, I would recommend this text for use in any general reference collection. The well-written and well-edited entries are easy to understand and would answer many library users basic questions about a notable scientist or discovery.

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