In this comprehensive if somewhat ponderous volume Professor Hilton has made a splendid contribution. The book deals primarily with science information facilities in Latin America and the scientific institutions which these facilities serve. Detailed information is provided on the libraries, internal organization, curricula, graduate programs, publications, etc. of all Latin American institutions with even a peripheral interest in science. Topically the scientific subdivisions receiving major attention in the volume are: agronomy, dentistry, engineering, exact and natural sciences, geology, medicine, pharmacy and veterinary medicine. As might be expected the countries most emphasized are Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, reflecting of course their relatively more impressive scientific achievements.
Professor Hilton cautions that, while every effort was made to secure accurate data, often this was not possible. Given the frequent absence of refiable card catalogs in many Latin American libraries the total number of books and journals in libraries often could be fisted only in approximate terms. In some cases librarians may have inflated the estimates of their holdings. But any investigator who has worked in various of the scientific libraries described by Professor Hilton will recognize the practicality of his contribution. Future investigators will be grateful that for the first time they will now have convenient access to sufficient descriptive materials about the location, staff, and holdings of given institutions so as to be able to decide in advance if a given collection would likely be worth visiting.
The volume is conveniently organized on a country-by-country basis. Some background information is provided for each country that certain Latin American specialists may find rather elementary; Professor Hilton correctly recognized, however, that many scientists and technicians who need information of a scientific nature about Latin America are not “Latin American specialists” and such general information is obviously for their benefit. Next there follows a series of descriptions of institutions arranged by localities. These sections comprise the core of the volume and are, in general, extremely well done. Several topical chapters close out the volume. These deal with “International, U.S., and European Organizations Promoting Science and Science Information in Latin America” (from which The Commonwealth Fund was unaccountably omitted); “The Problems of Science in Latin America;” “The Problems of Science Information in Latin America,” and “Previous Studies of Science Information in Latin America.” These chapters comprise a realistic, hard-hitting appraisal of the numerous obstacles to desperately needed scientific development in Latin America. Professor Hilton concludes that “the general results of this survey are depressing,” but his assessments of the problem seem fair and on target.
One additional feature which would have increased the utility of the volume is a subject index. To find all the specific references to say “medicine” or “biology” one must search laboriously through a volume of more than 700 pages. Bibliographical references are also scattered through the text, sometimes in end notes following chapters, sometimes included within the text. Some of the textual information might advantageously have been reduced to charts or tables to facilitate rapid reference.
The Scientific Institutions of Latin America is certain to be recognized as one of the major Latin American publications of 1970. It will be invaluable to all persons interested in the state and role of science, higher education and/or international organizations in Latin America.