[Histonet] Good Histology Books-One OpinionOnly

Monson, Frederick fmonson <@t> wcupa.edu
Sat Dec 6 13:14:30 CST 2003

Here are my recommendations, if you can find copies.
Bloom and Fawcett a Textbook of Histology  (at Amazon.com, used, many)
by Don W. Fawcett (Editor), et al 
*	Hardcover: 964 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.75 x 10.50 x 7.50 
*	Publisher: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Publishers; 12th edition (December 1994) 
*	ASIN: 0412046911


Ham's Histology
by Cormack


*	Publisher: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Publishers; 9th edition (April 1987) 
*	ASIN: 0397506813 


Histology for Pathologists
by Stephen S., Md. Sternberg (Editor), Stemberg 
Hardcover: 1216 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 2.50 x 11.50 x 9.25 

Publisher: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Publishers; 2nd edition (December 1997) 

ISBN: 0397517181 |

Prof. Fawcett's text is a decade old, and DOES NOT digress much from light microscopic and fine structure of the tissues and cells that comprise them.  The almost 1,000 pages is about right, in my opinion, for a text that covers structure well.   What follows is a philosophical discussion of why I chose the text listed above.  If only the basics of histology are desired, then, my recommendation is a hard cover copy of this text.

Ham & Cormack (I have the 8th edition) is the best of the non-medical functional histology books published in the 1960's-1980's.  These texts focused on the functional integration of the subject of histology.  The text listed above I have NOT seen, so it is listed only to provide a means to search for old copies of the 8th ed., if that is desirable.  I have kept the Ham and Cormack, because in it I learned first particulars about immunology and second about the various means of determining, by treatment regime, the structure of articular cartilage after healing from injury.

Dr. Sternberg's book is 4x the price of the Fawcett tome.  It is, as its title describes, an histology book FOR pathologists.  Whether surprising or not, pathologists are, though often more specialized that I would prefer for myself, the most complete histologists, though their concerns are limited by and to their clinical foci.  This is a book that, in its second edition, has changed from the first, by loss and addition of chapters.  Thus, I have both on my shelf, and I will likely not divest myself of either.  Interestingly, and not unexpectedly, the concentration in this text is NOT on the basics, but rather on the nuances of 'normal' cells and tissues in the context of the clinical milieu, as determined by Dr. Sternberg, the editor.  Distinct from Fawcett are chapters on 'Apoptosis', the "Myofibroblast', 'Paraganglia', and 'Neuroendocrine System'. 

Disclaimer!  Given my experience, my feelings are colored both by what I already know and what I would consider educationally viable.  Thus, all that I have said, and will say, is slanted by those factors.  The result is that I shy away from paperback texts, because any text I purchase I will wish to keep and use.  Finally, over the years, I have learned a perhaps unhappy/unreasonable aversion to 500 page paperback books in anatomy, except those whose purpose is to provide recreational time with colored pencils.  These 'anticlivities' prevent me from painting with a broad, unbiased brush, and thus, I am not, by failing to include those texts mentioned by others, making either derogatory or dismissive allusions to them.

What follows my first good-bye as a P.S. is mere preaching, which should be avoided by those who either lack interest in such ramblings or don't believe the 'WHY' of the opinions of the old, infirm, and soon-to-be irrelevant or gone old(er) folks.  If you continue, remember that you have been warned!

Cheers,  FCM (for those who have the discipline to quit here)

P.S.  It is impossible to recommend textbooks to individuals in the absence of knowledge about the goal(s) of the person submitting the query.  However, if I am asked about texts, I try to explain my choices.  For the above three books, which I would recommend to a graduate student about to study histology, the first for its wonderful micrographs (except for the overly red light micrographs) and residual Maximow ink drawings, the second, for its focus on structure and function, and the third for its attention, by specialists, to the newest information on the structure and function of tissues and their cellular and extracellular components.

First, I have always believed that a text that one purchases for 'the course' and then discards was NEVER worth the 'energy of acquisition'.  I still have many of the text books I owned as a graduate student, because they serve as useful reminders of the content I was supposed to retain.  There are also those purchases I have made after long (often decades) of searching.  One of the best reasons to save a text has already been given.  Another is the purely scholarly reason - the bibliographies.  

It may sound silly, but one of the first parts of planning a course is a definition of the philosophcal focus of the subject to be presented.  With respect to histology, there are two approaches.   

One defines the limit of the course as 'knowledge of' the stripped-down fundamentals of the subject.  Such a course is confined to the basic tissues and their cellular and morphological characteristics, and, in the lab, with the minimum essentials of identification.

Another defines the limit of the course as 'knowledge of' structure as additionally characterized by function.  That is, "Functional Histology".  This course cannot be taught to sophomores.  To learn it properly, one should have some exposure to physiology, embryology, and comparative anatomy.  

Where the former represents courses that rest on the foundation of "...The thigh bone's connected to the hip bone...", the latter attends to the business of connecting the structure of tissues to the real 'business' of tissues.  Where the first teaches the basics of tissue organization, the latter two attempt to integrate structure with function.  That to me has always been the goal.  [Learning to spell a word while not being required to learn its definition and its common, or uncommon applications, is a useless waste of time and energy.  Intussusception  and diapedesis are words that, for us in biology, relate to embryology and immunology; yet to know only how to spell them would waste valuable cognitive 'bandwidth'.  These terms I learned from my study of anatomy, and they are almost as much fun as transcription, osculation,  translation, and replication (terms all related to human reproduction! and all used in the one multiple choice exam I was once forced to give to my students!).]  

The last point to be made is about "Comparative" biology.  This part of the subject of histology may be confined to vertebrates, to vertebrates and invertebrates, but existed, when I was a student as a viable source of textbooks for vertebrate histology, even though they were abbreviated in one manner or other.  Comparative histology is where one learns about 'teeth' in the skin of a shark (and their/its use as sandpaper) and 'breathing' (gas exchange) thru the skin of a frog (but not a toad!), kidneys with ONE glomerulus, and acellular bone.  Similarly, comparative biochemistry is where one learns about fish that lack red blood cells but have free hemoglobin in the blood and excellent survival rates,  comparative physiology where salmon demonstrate significant osmoregulatory flexibility/adaptability when they first go to sea and then return to spawn.  Finally, from a comparison of LDH in human/mammalian embryos and neonates, one learns about biochmeical adaptation on the fly at/around parturition.  Indeed from all of this, one learns to evaluate structure within a VERY wide window on living systems.  An education that is properly organized much more preferable than one that is strongly focused, except at the end, when all that came before can be used to study and understand the very, very specific.  H.F.E.

Cheers to all,

Fred Monson

Frederick C. Monson, PhD
Center for Advanced Scientific Imaging
West Chester University of Pennsylvania
West Chester, PA, 19383

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