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Edited by G Majno, I Joris. Oxford: Published by Oxford University Press, 2004, £120.00 (hardback), pp 1005. ISBN 0 19 514090 7
The words delight and textbook seldom appear in the same sentence, but their juxtaposition is more than warranted in the case of this superb book. It is a great improvement over the award winning first edition. As before, there is an introduction followed by 34 chapters (not counting the farewell, which is new); the size of the page has been marginally increased; the index has expanded to a more comprehensive 35 pages; and, most importantly, there are now (by my count) some 5149 references (from antiquity to 2003) and 1104 illustrations in total. The latter number includes vastly more than the 27 of the first edition in colour, and even those images that have been re-used seem to have been noticeably enhanced. The book addresses the subject matter of its subtitle (Principles of general pathology) in five logical, appropriate, and colour coded sections, namely: Cellular pathology, Inflammation, Immunopathology, Vascular disturbances, and Tumours. The authors have interwoven the history of medicine and pathology (so often given short shrift, but here replete with much fascinating illustrative material), the principles of the basic sciences, and the elements of clinical and pathological diagnosis with great skill. The pathology component (the one that I am most able to comment on) includes numerous informative diagrams and excellent macroscopic, light and electron microscopic photographs, in addition to much up to date material from the burgeoning field of molecular pathology (including mention of microarrays). Among the subjects receiving an especially lucid explanation are free radicals, heat shock proteins, apoptosis, thrombosis, and the biology of tumours.
Although a 34 author book would doubtless have proved even more encyclopaedic, the continuity of style and coherence of vision (of “pathology as physiology with obstacles” and of “the cell as the primal patient”) in this dual authorship version more than compensate for the lack of numbers.
Emeritus professors Majno and Joris should be lauded for the monumental efforts entailed in producing a 1000 page text that is at once informative and entertaining; especially stimulating is the commentary on dogma incorporated in it from time to time. Their magnum opus should more than meet the requirements of the intended audience (students and teachers) in the fields of medicine and (human) biology—for whom it should, in my opinion, be required reading.
I lament the fact that nothing like this book was available when I was an undergraduate (medical) student; although heartened by the belief that the insights this book has provided have already improved my own lectures, I remain sobered by their comment that “faced with too much to learn each one of us must choose his or her maximum admissible level of ignorance”!
Lest this review appear too effusive, I feel obliged to criticise the second comma in the title, the choice of Pitot over Willis for an early definition of a neoplasm, and the fact that I could find no mention of Vesalius.