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July 14, 1978

The Harper Dictionary of Modern Thought

Author Affiliations

University of Iowa College of Medicine Iowa City

JAMA. 1978;240(2):149. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290020071032

This book was conceived by Alan Bullock, a distinguished 20th-century historian and Oxford don, when he encountered the word "hermeneutics" while reading the Times Literary Supplement, did not know what it meant, and was uncertain about where to look it up. (If a full-time scholar finds himself at a loss in dealing with a term related to his own field, we full-time physicians are in trouble.) Recognizing that even the best and brightest of us all cannot keep pace with the present exponential expansion of knowledge, he decided to develop a dictionary of terms used in both ordinary and obscure 20th-century writing and conversation. The result is a delightful adventure of ideas.

The book contains approximately 4,000 terms. "Modern thought" is flexibly conceptualized. If one glances randomly through two pages of the H section, one finds heterozygote and heuristic keeping company with hi-fi, high-level programming language, higher criticism, Hilbert space,