Reference type: Biographical
Authority: Isaac Asimov is perhaps the name in science fiction circles. Not only is his fiction of extremely high quality, he is also known for copious contributions to the scientific community. He earned a PhD in 1948 at Columbia. Although his scientific work began in biochemistry, his writing quickly branched to other fields such as physics and robotics (a term he coined) as well as to non-scientific fields such as literature and geography. Ever the scholar, Asimov conducted thorough research for every book he writes. He can be trusted to provide accurate and complete information.
Audience Relation: Science fiction writing is so called because it is literature that is based on known science. Many of the writers of this genre are scientists or science scholars. For those that are not, basic information about the history of scientific discoveries is a much-needed resource. This book fills this need quite well.
Scope: Asimov covers much territory in this book. The 1195 scientist mentioned begins with Imhotep from 2980 BC and ends with Sagan circa 1969. Each entry contains brief biographical data as well as major achievements. This book has much more breadth than depth, but is a great starting point for deep research or works equally well for quick citations or fact verification.
Content Evaluation: Not only is this book well-researched and well-written, it is also very well organized. The entries are in chronological order and assigned a number based on this order. This is how all the entries are referenced in the index, not by page number. The book includes a table of contents, which lists the scientists in alphabetical order with their entry numbers, and an index, which includes subject headings for each person's field of study. Additionally, when scientists are listed in another personas entry, their number is also cited for easy reference. The language is easy for the layperson to understand as well as being interesting enough to hold the attention. One could read this book cover to cover and gain a comprehensive view of humanity's scientific achievements.
The one fault of this book is its age. The last edition came out in 1972 (Note: This was the last edition about which the author could locate hard information. There may have been a 1982 edition, per results at Bookfinder.com). None would seem to be forthcoming since Asimov died in 1992. However, because of the historical nature of the text and its authority, this is still highly recommended as a reference for science fiction writers.