Each of the disciplines in the physical, biological, and social sciences has developed monitoring devices that enable orderly access to its intellectual content. These are the massive indexing and abstracting services, among them, Chemical Abstracts, Engineering Index, and Mathematical Reviews, without which a discipline would have difficulty in progressing, as science is cumulative and is built on previous work.
This issue of JAMA is dedicated to the Index Medicus, which has, for more than 100 years, provided the major access to medical information on a worldwide basis. How was this Index conceived, and what is the nature of the man who brought it to fruition? Jeffrey Kunz, MD, Fishbein Fellow of the American Medical Association, traces the development of Index Medicus from 1876 to the present (p 387).
As with most social institutions, the course of the Index has been rough, reflecting the economic and political upheavals of each age.