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Medical Terminologies: Classical Origins.
by John Scarborough. The University of Oklahoma Press, P.O. Box 787, Norman, OK 73070-0787. 1992. 303 pp. Hardcover. $34.95. ISBN: 0-8061-2443-1.

Classical scholar John Scarborough has produced a gem in Medical Terminologies: Classical Origins. The book provides etymological and historical underpinnings for helping the medical student or practitioner, in fact, everyone with an interest in the life sciences, with a fascinating exploration of the evolution of biological terms. The rifle is some. what of a misnomer; a wide range of biological terms -- not just medical terms -- are explored in these pages. The book is divided into chapters. The first chapter is "Special Vocabularies in Medical and Other English: Why There Are Jargons." In the words of the author, "...when children are taught some of the essentials of why such [scientific names] are given to the basic blocks of the natural universe, they recognize early that rote memorization is not science at all but that names and terms always signify something else, something more: a connection with mother time, a choice made by someone in the past to specify particulars ab out this special substance."

That's what this book does -- it brings scientific teams to comprehension by exploring their classical mots. Chapter two covers botanical jargon. In the third and fourth chapters, the historical etymological origins and meanings of invertebrates and arthropods are covered respectively. Chapters five through thirteen cover body parts and functions, including the bones, nerves, muscles, breathing, eating and digestion, sex, the heart, bodily fluids, and the senses. Appendices, with explanatory text, include Greek and Roman numbers; the Greek alphabet and the transliteration of Greek into Roman letters, pronunciation of Greco-Latin terms, and" Some Abbreviated Paradigms." The last item covers gender and inflection of classical languages. An excellent bibliography and detailed index are included.

John Scarborough has dissected the classical origins of biological terms, probed the history of terms, and provided a panoramic exploration of the evolution of ideas in the history of medicine and science from ancient, medieval, Renaissance and modern sources. All this presented in an engaging and palatable package for those who use biological language on a daily basis.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.