A Dictionary of Epidemiology

second edition, edited by John M. Last. xiv + 141 pages. Oxford University Press, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016. 1988. $24.95

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This slim book, prepared under the aegis of the International Epidemiological Association, is “an attempt to bring some order to the occasionally chaotic nomenclature of epidemiology.” The text gives this definition of epidemiology: “The study of the distribution and determinants of health related states or events in specified populations, and the application of this study to control of health problems.” The editor has been assisted by 61 contributing and 76 corresponding editors from around the world.

The defined terms range from “abortion rate” to “zoonosis.” There are concise explanations, often mixed with an acceptable amount of wry humor. An example is Murphy's definition of jargon in the preface: “obscure and/or pretentious language, circumlocutions, invented meanings, and pomposity delighted in for its own sake.”

Along with the terms that are in general use one will also find jargon, eponyms, acronyms, and short biographies of those who have contributed to the science of epidemiology in one way or another.