Who We Are

The IsisCB and the Isis Bibliography of History of Science

A project of the History of Science Society, the IsisCB originated as a printed bibliography in 1913 in the pages of Isis, a journal of history of science. This new journal was founded and edited by the Belgian scholar George Sarton, and from 1913 until his death, Sarton regularly printed updates to his bibliography. As it did during the period of Sarton’s leadership, today’s bibliography covers all time periods and disciplines and strives to be truly international in scope.

Over the years the bibliography has taken several different forms. Until about 1990, it was exclusively a print bibliography, that had both annual editions as well as cumulative editions. Since that time, the project expanded digitally, and the data is now accessible in both a subscription database (EBSCO’s History of Science, Technology, and Medicine service) and in an open access discovery service (the History of Science’s Explore service). That latter service utilizes the citation data to power a robust search engine that allows users to explore resources and concepts in history of science in ever more diverse ways.

In recent years the IsisCB has begun to commission and print bibliographical essays that supplement the database and print bibliographies. These essays and accompanying bibliographical lists give readers short and informative introductions to the state of different subfields across the discipline.

About the Name and Logo

The logo points to both the future and the past of the Isis CB. At its roots is the book, symbolizing the foundation of the project, the Isis Bibliography of History of Science.

The semicircle, a crescent arc, sweeping up from the pages of the book connotes the universal scope of the project. The bibliography covers works in all languages, research on the historical development of all disciplines in the sciences, and topics covering every geographic region on the entire globe and spanning the course of human history.

As for the name, the historian George Sarton gave us the name Isis, to reflect the origin of scientific knowledge in the distant past, represented in ancient times by the Egyptian goddess of wisdom.

The bibliography soon came to be identified primarily by its initials: CB. Sarton called it a critical bibliography, but in later years, the initials referred to current bibliography and cumulative bibliography.

The letters are the same, but by merging the name into a single word, I encourage people to bring new ideas to the table. The IsisCB will foster a new set of tools that go beyond the printed book. It will turn toward the networked, digital world, and so CB it will echo new associations:

  • Community Built. The IsisCB is a resource that embodies the intellectual work of the whole scholarly community.
  • Collaborative Bibliography. One of our main goals is to make the resource highly interactive for users. People will be able to add, comment, edit, and share the citations to scholarship herein.
  • Computational Bibliography. With a powerful server-driven search platform at our command, we will be able to offer new kinds of data analysis than was possible in the past.

Established in 1913, the bibliography provided citations to published work from around the world, and the project has been supported since the 1920s by the History of Science Society, one of the discipline’s premier international associations of scholars.

I want to thank Caitlin Corbett at the University of Oklahoma for producing this engaging design.