Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Dr A D Smith
Published in: Oxford University Press
Release Year: 2000
ISBN: 0-19-850673-2
Pages: 753
Edition: Revised Edition
File Size: 31 MB
File Type: pdf
Language: English

Description of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Nearly twenty years ago one of us (S. P. D., soon joined by G. H. S.), began a distillation of the elements of biochemistry into an alphabetical arrangement. The task was formidable and eventually other editors were recruited, an editorial board was established, and now the work is offered as the Oxford Dictionary of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. It is hoped that the dictionary will serve the needs of the research biochemist or molecular biologist, as well as teachers of the subject and their students. In addition, it should prove of value to practitioners of other fields of study or work seeking the meaning of a biochemical term.
An important function of a dictionary is to provide guidance on current usage in the field within its scope. The original 12-volume Oxford English Dictionary was compiled from about five million slips of paper bearing sentences or phrases extracted by some thousands of 'readers' from classical works of literature and those of the best contemporary authors. It was thus firmly based on good usage. In scientific subjects, specialist terminology is often codified in sets of recommendations regarding nomenclature, meaning, abbreviations, symbols, and so on. These have been agreed by international commissions (e.g. those of The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) as a means of preserving  order and facilitating communication between scientists.
We have striven to conform as far as possible to the relevant international recommendations, but in some cases, where usage so frequently diverges from a recommendation that adherence to it would seriously detract from ease of use of the dictionary, we have kept to the principle that the dictionary should reflect usage (see the definitions of lexicographer). This does not extend, of course, to cases where usage, however widespread, contradicts sound scientific principles. The internationally agreed recommendation is always also listed. The various compilations of these recommendations that have been drawn upon are listed in Appendix B, together with a number of other sources of information on nomenclature. Biochemistry is the discipline that embraces the study of the structure and function of life-forms at the molecular level. 
Molecular biology is a closely related discipline that originates in the study of DNA and its metabolism, and now embraces all those investigations that exploit the technology that has resulted from this work. Both disciplines aim to explain the behavior of life-forms in molecular terms, and are soclosely interrelated that separation is barely possible. It is inevitable that the content of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is to a degree arbitrary, but it is hoped that all important aspects of these subjects have received consideration. The compilers have attempted to offer a broad coverage of terms encountered in the literature of biochemistry and molecular biology by including an appreciable number from cognate sciences. Although the compilation is designed primarily to serve readers of contemporary material, the needs of those who turn to older literature have also been borne in mind.
Some of the entries thus have a historical flavor, some obsolete terms are included (e.g. Zymase), and in some cases a historical approach has been used as the best means of presenting an explanation of a term, as for example in the case of the entry for gene. The value of a scientific dictionary is enhanced by inclusion of contextual information as well as mere explanations of meaning or terminology. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology will be found to have some of the attributes of an encyclopedia, although the extent to which it veers in this direction has varied with the whim of its compilers. It is our hope that in a single volume the reader has easy access to basic definitions as well as a generous helping of other information.
 In the present-day world, we are assailed by floods of 'information'. It has been suggested that the average weekday edition of a newspaper of record (e.g. The New York Times) provides more information than Shakespeare and his contemporaries would have acquired in a lifetime. With the availability of much information through the Internet, it may be asked whether a dictionary in paper form is actually necessary. In answer, we note that the Internet can be slow, and is not readily accessible in some parts of the world; the databases may be inadequate, and although usually very up-to-date, the high cost of their maintenance restricts them to specialized knowledge in a limited number of fields. Moreover, books have a quality of their own, which is enabling them to maintain their popularity. It appears that the increasing use of the Internet is actually paralleled by the rate of publication of printed dictionaries; in an information-hungry age, there cannot be too many sources of good-quality information.
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