HistoryofMedicineandBiology.com evolved from printed bibliographies of medical and biological classics that were originally compiled and published by the American medical historian Fielding H. Garrison (1870-1935) in 1912 and 1933. Garrison’s work was expanded and improved by English medical librarian Leslie T. Morton (1907-2004) in four successively expanded printed editions entitled A Medical Bibliography from 1943 to 1983. Since Morton’s books built on Garrison’s foundation, Morton’s work became known as “Garrison & Morton” or “Garrison-Morton”. I took over the project in the late 1980s, and in 1991 issued a revised and further expanded fifth edition as printed book retitled in Morton's honor, Morton’s Medical Bibliography. All five of the printed editions became standard reference works for the history of medicine, biology, and dentistry. As it evolved, the bibliography covered primary works, i.e. first publications of medical discoveries or other "primary sources" as well as significant secondary sources, or historical studies. It included periodical citations and books for primary material, but limited its coverage of secondary works, or historical studies, to books on these subjects rather than periodical citations; otherwise the number of entries would have become unmanageable. For the most part I continue to retain these constraints.
To show how this work evolved from Fielding Garrison’s original conception we have provided links to PDFs of Garrison’s 1912 and 1933 versions in margin of this page. There is also a link to an obituary of Garrison, and the introductory sections of Solomon Kagan’s biography of Garrison. Also provided are copies of the title pages, introductions, and tables of contents of all five of the printed editions. References end with the transcript of an interview with Leslie T. Morton, as well as his obituary. Those references document as fully as possible the evolution of one of the most widely used bibliographical reference tools for the history of medicine and biology.
During the twenty-five years that passed since the writing and publication of the fifth edition I concluded that the work would be most useful as an interactive database freely available on the Internet, so when the copyright in Morton’s Medical Bibliography reverted to me in 2014 I decided to begin the construction of the present website. Previously I had experience developing and writing websites, first with www.HistoryofScience.com, and then with www.HistoryofInformation.com and www.BookHistory.net. Those ongoing sites, as well as HistoryofMedicineandBiology.com, are the result of an extremely productive collaboration with the very talented and imaginative web developer Jessica Gore (www.gorecreative.com).
Construction of this site first involved the scanning of the roughly 1046 printed pages of the fifth edition, minus the printed index, into searchable text by Lapiz Digital in Chennai, India. Then the same company entered the data into a custom database designed for the eventual website by Jessica Gore. This work was supervised by my long-time associate Diana Hook, after which my wife Trish reviewed all the entries for correspondence to the printed edition. It then fell to me to read all of the database entries from beginning to end for content and accuracy. Besides correcting thousands of mistakes of fact or interpretation, during this editorial process I made changes intended to make the bibliography more user friendly. These included returning all the spelling in annotations to American usage, standardizing place names from arcane Latin to their modern English versions, and building a new subject index that is far superior to what was possible in a printed book. Apart from its interactive features, one of the significant advantages of the database versus the printed editions is that entries may be indexed to the several subjects with which they are often concerned, without the limitations of their placement in the physical subject arrangement of the printed editions. For more specific information the keyword search is a powerful tool.
Besides the subject index, reports that are available in this version of the website include searches by author, title, place of publication, and year of publication. Also built into the underlying technology of the website are the capacity for expanding entries with captioned illustrations, including portraits of authors, as well as links to digital editions when available, and to relevant videos. There is also the technology to add new entries, and to expand the annotations to entries far beyond the brief notes in the printed editions of the bibliography. The extent to which these additional features are implemented will depend upon time and resources available. I welcome collaboration on the project with qualified persons. If you would like to help please do not hesitate to contact me.
Because “Garrison-Morton” entry numbers became established references in medical library cataloguing, as the printed book expanded through successive editions, Leslie Morton used decimal extensions, such as 4204.1, 4204.2, etc. to add new material while retaining the original numbers. I followed this somewhat awkward practice in the fifth edition. Thus the final entry number in the fifth edition was 6810 though the actual number of entries in the bibliography was significantly higher. To preserve the historical record we retained the entry numbers from the fifth edition in the database, though in the case of entries which had to be repeated multiple times with different entry numbers under different subjects in the printed book, I have tried to consolidate each as one entry, indexed under the multiple subjects with which it is concerned, and retaining all of the original different entry numbers. Entries added to the web version are numbered after 6810. I am keeping an approximate running tab of the numbers of new entries that I add, and the number of old entries that I change significantly in the subject index under "Additions or Significant Revisions." Also, since it is now possible to index an entry under an unlimited number of subjects, the subject index is a better reflection of the multiple subjects with which many entries are concerned.
Another feature of the database that differs from the printed editions is the greatly improved author index. Users will find that I have added the names and dates of numerous authors and editors to titles that were in previous editions. The database program displays the names of authors in alphabetical order by their last name, so from time to time the order of authorship is different than it originally appeared in the publication concerned. Using the author index you can display all the works by a given author in a single chronological sequence by publication date. This feature is one of the greatest advantages of the interactive database format over the printed versions, in which one had to go back and forth from the author index to find entries for a single author that were scattered throughout the book.
In April 2015, when I originally posted these explanatory comments, I wrote that "I expect to limit additions to historical references prior to about 1980—especially early works—and perhaps to cite a few very significant works on aspects of the history of medicine and biology that were published more recently. The value of this bibliography has always been in its selectivity; with the explosion of information, and the rapid advance of science, of which we are all aware, attempting to maintain even a highly selective retrospective view of recent significant historical developments on such a wide range of specialized topics has become impossible." While it is obviously impossible to keep up with the explosion of biomedical science and the smaller parallel growth of historical writing on these subjects, increasingly I find myself ignoring my self-imposed inhibitions about more recent developments. By the end of December 2016 over 1650 entries were significantly revised, expanded or added, and the total number of entries in the database surpassed 10,100. There were over 720 subjects in the subject index, and I had added numerous significant primary works and many secondary works published in the 21st century. One of the last areas into which I had ventured by the end of 2016 was "Electronic Resources." These found their place under Bibliography. Now that this analytical bibliography is an electronic resource, and it links to many other electronic resources, it is appropriate to document the development of these newer key sources of current and historical information.
Jeremy M. Norman
April 2015; Revised December 31, 2016