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Books, Journals, New Media
April 12, 2000

HistoryA Dictionary of the History of Medicine

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available


by Anton Sebastian, 781 pp, with illus, $89, ISBN 1-85070-021-4, New York, NY, Parthenon Publishing Group, 1999.

JAMA. 2000;283(14):1888-1889. doi:10.1001/jama.283.14.1888-JBK0412-4-1

A Dictionary of the History of Medicine has nearly everything that you wanted to know, from "Aaron of Alexandria" to "zymase." Anton Sebastian, MD, of Scotland has a personal library of more than 3000 antiquarian books on medical science, the basis for most of the information contained in the dictionary that he has compiled.

An interesting feature with many of the terms is the etymological explanation. As an otolaryngologist, I had not previously wondered about the origin of the word "parotid." However, the logic is evident from Dr Sebastian's etymology: "[Greek: para, besides + ous, ear]." Other examples include: "vagina [Latin: vagina, a scabbard or sheath]," "cirrhosis [Greek: kirros, yellow or tawny colored," "mastoiditis [Greek: mastos, breast + oid, form + itis, inflammation]" and "fetish [Portuguese: feitico, charm or amulet]."

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