Cover image for Microbes and people : an A-Z of microorganisms in our lives
Microbes and people : an A-Z of microorganisms in our lives
Sankaran, Neeraja.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Phoenix, Ariz. : Oryx Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
xiii, 297 pages : illustrations, map ; 27 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library QR9 .S26 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Reference

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Orgnized in an A-to-Z format, this reference guide is designed to help users find their way in the vast--and sometimes bewildering--world of living things too small to be discerned with the naked eye. Entries cover environmental, industrial, and food microbiology, in addition to the microbiology of health and disease. Scientific techniques used for studying microorganisms are discussed, and biographies of key individuals are provided. A chronology of infections and disease epidemics from 430 B.C. to the present is included as an appendix.

Author Notes

NEERAJA SANKARAN is a science writer and a Ph.D. student in the history of medicine and science at Yale University. She holds degrees in both microbiology and science writing. Sankaran has contributed articles to a number of scientific publications including The Scientist, The NCRR (National Center for Research Resources) Reporter, Annals of Internal Medicine, and Yale Medicine.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

As the reality of the impact, for good and bad, of microorganisms on all living creatures gets increased attention in the news media, academic study, and human consciousness, so increases the need for providing information for nontechnical people. This volume is a ready reference for interpreting scientific language related to understanding news and other literature about microorganisms. It is also a good place for students and others to acquire basic background information on many public health topics. The author states that the main purpose of the volume is to bridge the gap between technical scientific literature and the very simplistic approach of some popular news media. Definitions and descriptions in the 750 entries seem to have more context, augmented by examples, facts, statistics, and historical references, than one finds in other sources. Most of the terms could be found in various medical, scientific, and general dictionaries but without the special care to introduce terms and concepts and show their relevance to society. The terms and concepts range from organisms and diseases, biologic processes and characteristics, behaviors, significant persons, laboratory techniques, and devices to a discussion of the history of theories on the origin of life, with many significant and interesting stops in between. Because many effects of microbes are beneficial, the readers will find discussions of Lactobacillus and Probiotics as well as Colorado tick fever, Diphtheria, and Ebola. Some entries (e.g., Cancer) span four pages. Other topics, like Thermophile, are covered in three lines. The five appendixes include a chronology of epidemics in history, a map of large disease outbreaks in recent history, and several graphs to illustrate the importance of infectious diseases. The bibliography includes some of the resources used by the author, with the observation that these are just starting points. Web sites of several public health agencies are noted. The 17-page index is important because it includes acronyms and initialisms to direct users to the appropriate entry. In the next edition the author may want to include more acronyms and initialisms as entries with see references to the full terms. There are a few other problems with access; for example, there is no see reference that would lead the reader looking for bubonic plague to Plague, where the disease is discussed; and the index entry for bubonic plague refers only to the chronology. More illustrations would be useful. Creutzfeldt-Jakob is misspelled. As with any group of definitions of this type, there may be other terms that could have been included and other interpretations. However, because it provides very readable coverage of topics so much in the news lately, this dictionary will be much used in high-school, undergraduate, and public libraries.

Choice Review

Sankaran, writing in encyclopedic format, provides a brief but comprehensive introduction to microorganisms, including bacteria, parasites, and fungi; associated terminology; infectious diseases; and the scientists who are making and have made significant contributions to this scientific knowledge. There are often references to other related topics, e.g., "scalded skin syndrome" refers the reader to Staphylococcus and Staphylococcus to "commensal, foodborne diseases," "scalded skin syndrome," and "toxic shock syndrome." These links facilitate the establishing of relationships that would not otherwise exist in such a resource. A few photos and photomicrographs provide visual references to significant terms. Since this work targets those outside the scientific community, it would have been helpful to include the magnification for the microscopic images. The topics are clearly explained in language that most casual readers should be able to understand, but a glossary of basic scientific terms, e.g., "lysis," "encephalopathy," would enhance understanding. The book might be useful in high school science classes or college freshman biology classes as a tool to stimulate interest in microorganisms, their uses, and their pathogenic roles, and to provide topics for discussion or further investigation. It might also be informative to the casual reader with a basic exposure to science. All levels. P. Pacifico Wright State University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. vii
List of Tables and Figuresp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xiv
An A-Z of Microorganisms in Our Livesp. 1
Appendix 1. A Chronology of Epidemics in Historyp. 271
Appendix 2. Large Infectious Disease Outbreaksp. 275
Appendix 3. Leading Causes of Death in the Worldp. 276
Appendix 4. Leading Infectious Disease Killersp. 277
Appendix 5. Death Rates from Leading Causes of Death in the United Statesp. 278
Bibliographyp. 279
Indexp. 281

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