Understanding the History of Science: background and context

Encyclopedias and histories are useful first stops to acquire context and background for your topic.

There are many helpful encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks in Widener and other libraries that can give you a general overview of a specific topic. You can try searching in HOLLIS for your subject (see the HOLLIS tab for finding the proper Subject terms) plus the words encyclopedias or dictionaries.  

To find individual encyclopedia articles in HOLLIS Everything, do a Title search on your topic and in the results list look for Resource Type under Refine My Results in the right-hand column. Choose Reference entries.

Major subject encyclopedias and other reference works

Cambridge Histories Online includes Cambridge History of Science:

  Vol. 2: Medieval Science
  Vol. 3: Early Modern Science
  Vol. 4: Eighteenth Century Science
  Vol. 5: Modern Physical and Mathematical Sciences
  Vol. 6: Modern Biological and Earth Sciences (print only)
  Vol. 7: Modern Social Sciences

General

Encyclopedia of American environmental history (Print Only), ​ed. by K. A. Brosnan. 4 v. NY: Facts on File, 2011. 

Encyclopaedia of the history of science, technology, and medicine in non-western cultures (Print Only), ed. by Helaine Selin. 2nd ed. Berlin; NY: Springer, 2008. 2 v. 

The Oxford companion to the history of modern science (Harvard Login), ed. by J.L. Heilbron et al. NY: Oxford University Press, 2003, 941 p. 

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the History of American Science, Medicine, and Technology (Harvard Login), ed. by Hugh Richard Slotten. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

The Oxford encyclopedia of philosophy, science, and technology in Islam (Harvard Login), ed. by Ibrahim Kalin. Oxford ; NY: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Science, technology, and society: an encyclopedia (Harvard Login), ed. by Sal Restivo. NY: Oxford University Press, 2005, 701 p.  

 

Psychology

Encyclopedia of the history of psychological theories (Harvard Login), ed. by Robert W. Rieber. NY: Springer, 2012. 2 v. 

The Oxford companion to the mind (Harvard Login), ed. by Richard L. Gregory. 2nd ed. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2004, 1004 p.

The Oxford handbook of the history of psychology: global perspectives (Harvard Login), ed. by David B. Baker. Oxford; NY: Oxford University Press, 2012, 645 p. 

Human Biology

The Oxford Companion to the body (Harvard Login), ed. by Colin Blakemore and Sheila Jennett et al. Oxford; NY: Oxford University Press, 2001, 753 p. 

The Oxford handbook of the history of eugenics (Harvard Login; print versions also in HOLLIS), ed. by Alison Bashford, Philippa Levine. NY: Oxford University Press, 2010, 586 p.

The Routledge history of sex and the body: 1500 to the present (Print Only), ed. by Sarah Toulalan and Kate Fisher. Abingdon, Oxon; NY: Routledge, 2013, 579 p. 

 

Medicine

Cambridge historical dictionary of disease (Harvard Login), ed. by Kenneth F. Kiple. Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2003, 412 p. 

Cambridge world history of human disease (Harvard Login) ed. by Kenneth F. Kiple et al. Cambridge ; NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, 1176 p.

Companion encyclopedia of the history of medicine (Harvard Login), ed. by W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter. London; NY: Routledge, 1993. 2 v. HOLLIS record

Companion to medicine in the twentieth century (Harvard Login), ed. by Roger Cooter and John Pickstone. London; NY: Routledge, 2003, 756 p. 

  • Articles, with references, especially on social, institutional, political, and policy aspects of medicine.

Medical research: a midcentury survey (Harvard Login). Boston, Published for the American Foundation by Little, Brown, 1955, 2 v. 

  • A valuable overview of medical research circa 1940-1955. The first volume covers institutional and policy aspects, the second summarizes the state of research on cancer, infertility, arteriosclerosis, hypertension, rheumatic syndromes, tuberculosis, viruses, alcoholism, and schizophrenia.

Oxford handbook of the history of medicine (Harvard Login), ed. by Mark Jackson. Oxford ; New York ; Oxford University Press, 2011, 672 p. 

 

 

Biography

Complete Dictionary of scientific biography. HOLLIS Record for print version: Original -- New.

  • The online version of the Dictionary of scientific biography and New Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Offers biographical articles on deceased scientists, including lists of primary and secondary literature. New Dictionary of Scientific Biography contains new articles about scientists dying after 1950 and earlier figures omitted from the original Dictionary together with articles updating entries in the original. Unlike the original, psychology and anthropology are covered, with some sociology and economics.

 

The biographical dictionary of scientists (Print Only), by Roy Porter, Marilyn Ogilvie. NY: Oxford University Press, 3rd. ed., 2000. 2 v. 

  • A collection of short articles.

Dictionary of American medical biography, ed. by M. Kaufman, S. Galishoff & T. L. Savitt. 2 v. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1984. HOLLIS Record 

Dictionary of medical biography, ed. by W. F. Bynum and Helen Bynum. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007. 5 v. HOLLIS Record

Women in Medicine: A Bibliography of the Literature on Women Physicians, by S. L. Chaff. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1977, 1124 pp. HOLLIS Record

  • Covers 18th century through 1975.

A dictionary of scientists (Harvard Login), Oxford Reference. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 

 

Biographical sources for women in science 

Biographical sources for American physicians (this guide is still under development)

Additional general sources in Finding Biographical Information

Contemporary Subject Dictionaries

Contemporary subject encyclopedias and dictionaries are useful in interpreting primary sources. They can be found by an Advanced Search in the HOLLIS Catalog with, e.g., <Medicine dictionaries> [Keyword search], limited by year range.

Gould, George M. (George Milbry), 1848-1922.
An illustrated dictionary of medicine, biology and allied sciences ...
3d ed. rev.
Philadelphia, Blakiston, 1897, c1894.

Subject: Medicine--Dictionaries.
Natural history--Dictionaries.

These books are usually shelved toward the beginning of each subject class in the Old Widener system.

Doing Cross-disciplinary Research: connecting with other fields

History of science topics often explore the relations of scientific work with other fields, such as:

  • public policy
  • popular media
  • religion
  • literature

Primary and secondary sources in other fields may therefore be important to you. You might need to investigate original documents in public policy or film footage in media studies.  There are several options for finding this material:

  • To find resources in HOLLIS Databases, choose Subject and browse the resource types..

Don't forget Print!

It's true that there's now a wide world of research available online. However, the vast majority of historical scholarly resources are still in print. While you'll need to consider the timing and scope of your research, you will miss opportunities and your research may be incomplete if you use only what's already been digitized.

The human subjects of your research didn't read online. Reading linked and related articles online is an entirely different experience from that of browsing the newspaper or an online journal. The medium can be significant.

Don't disregard print indexes and the crucial print resources to which they may lead.