This book is dedicated to sir Ronald Bodley Scott (1906-1982), a family physician and specialist in internal medicine, who was affiliated with St Bartholomew's Hospital and appointed physician to King George VI and Queen Elisabeth II. Together with a collegue he conceived the idea of this companion, which was in its planning stage at the time of his death. The present companion is the 3rd edition. The three editors are wellknown physicians, Stephen Lock, a hematologist who edited the British Medical Journal from 1975-91, John M Last professor emeritus in epidemiology from the Univesrity of Ottawa and George Dunea, the chairman of nephrology at Cook County Hospital in Chicago.
This companion is not a standard encyclopedia, but rather a selection of more than 500 short papers by more than 200 authors on subjects from abortion to zombification. Each entry is connected to the historical perspective of medicine, relationship with culture or art and information on the persons behind.
It can be learned that autopsies are not without side effects. A certain Josef Kolletschka died of sepsis following an infection acquired after sustaining a wound during autopsy. It was the similarity of his illness and in patients with puerperal fever that led Ignaz Philip Semmelweiss (1818-65) to understand that puerperal fever was caused by infection. This Hungarian obstetrician, working at the Allgemeines Krankenhaus in Vienna observed that the maternal mortality was higher in the ward attended by students (that came directly from the dissection room to the ward) than in the ward attended by nurses. When he enforced hygiene the mortality fell from 9.95% to 1.3%. The administration did not like his ideas and he was forced to leave for Budapest, where he became professor of obstetrics in 1855. His ideas on hygiene (Die Aetiologie der Begriff und die Prophylaxis des Kindbettfiebers, 1861) was not received well and in 1865 he suffered from an mental breakdown and died from septicemia from a wound infection.
On the lighter side you will also find some nice quotations on the medical profession, like the one of Thomas Fuller (1609-61) on "physicians, who like beer, are best when they are old".
All in all, a book with a wealth of information on medicine and its history.
Professor Joav Merrick, MD
Medical director, Division for Mental Retardation, Box 1260, IL-91012 Jerusalem, Israel,
Mohammed Morad, MD
Family physician, Division for Community Health,