Microbiology and immunology are sometimes seen as esoteric and highly specialized sciences with few interpreters to students and the lay public. The authors have selected 600 entries that highlight selected important persons, research facilities, terms, and concepts of both these fields. There are brief biographies of the well known (Salk, Jonas) and the lesser known but important (Mil stein, Cesar); and explanations of common terms (Epidemics and pandemics), uncommon terms (Retroposons and transposable elements), and acronyms like AIDS and SCID (Severe combined immunodeficiency).
The entries are in alphabetical order with many cross references. Though there are no bibliographies with the entries, there are 13 pages of book and journal-article citations and 10 pages of Web addresses in the "Sources Consulted" section. This is followed by an 18-page "Historical Chronology" of milestones in human scientific achievement, showing how ancient (circa 10,000 B.C.E.) ideas eventually led to germ theory and the burgeoning of microbiology and immunology through 2002. The extensive, detailed general index indicates the main entries' volume and page numbers in boldface type. Sometimes the same page information is repeated in regular type, an unnecessary redundancy. Using the index one can find that the Irish potato famine is mentioned in the entry on Fungal genetics along with other similarly embedded bits of information. One important, but missing, finding aid is an index to the biographies, as browsing biographies is often a way to interest students in a discipline.
The language is straightforward and only as technical as required. The aim is to increase curiosity and interest in these diverse and important disciplines, and to show the development and growing importance of both fields to human health. Though the editors emphasize student use, the major users will probably be persons wanting to learn a bit about terms they hear or read in scientific and medical news. In no way does this publication compete with professional encyclopedias designed for researchers and medical practitioners such as Encyclopedia of Microbiology (Academic, 2000) or Encyclopedia of Immunology (Academic, 1998). Recommended for public libraries and general interest in academic libraries. RBB