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Propædia

The one-volume Propædia is the first of three parts of the 15th edition of Encyclopædia Britannica, the other two being the 12-volume Micropædia and the 17-volume Macropædia. The Propædia is intended as a topical organization of the Britannica's contents, complementary to the alphabetical organization of the other two parts. Introduced in 1974 with the 15th edition, the Propædia and Micropædia were intended to replace the Index of the 14th edition; however, after widespread criticism, the Britannica restored the Index as a two-volume set in 1985. The core of the Propædia is its Outline of Knowledge, which seeks to provide a logical framework for all human knowledge; however, the Propædia also has several appendices listing the staff members, advisors and contributors to all three parts of the Britannica.

The Outline of Knowledge

Analogous to the Britannica itself, the Outline has three types of goals: epistemological, educational and organizational. In the epistemological arena, it seeks to provide a systematic, strictly hierarchical categorization of all possible human knowledge, a 20th-century analog of the Great Chain of Being and Francis Bacon's outline in Instauratio magna. In the educational arena, the Propædia lays out a course of study for each major discipline, a "roadmap" for a student who wishes to learn a field in its entirety. Finally, the Propædia serves as an expanded Table of Contents for the Micropædia and Macropædia; according to its designer, Mortimer J. Adler, all the articles of the Britannica were commissioned based on the Outline of Knowledge.

The Outline has ten Parts, each with an introductory essay. The authors of these essays are listed below in the final column of Table 1. The same ten men were responsible for developing the outline for their Part, in consultation and collaboration with a handful of other scholars; in all, 86 men and one woman were involved in developing the Outline of Knowledge (see Table 2 below).

Table 1: The Ten Parts of the Outline of Knowledge in the Propædia
Part Title Major subjects # of Divisions # of Sections Total # Lead author
01Part One Matter and Energy Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy 3 2,8,3 13 Nigel Calder
02Part Two The Earth Geology, Geography, Oceanography 4 4, 3, 2, 3 12 Peter John Wyllie
03Part Three Life on Earth Taxonomy, Molecular and cell biology, Physiology, Neuroscience, Ecology 5 3, 3, 9, 2, 5 22 René Dubos
04Part Four Human Life Human evolution, Medicine, Psychology 3 2, 4, 6 12 Loren Eiseley
05Part Five Human Society Sociology, Economics, Politics, Law, Education 6 4, 4, 6, 4, 3, 2 23 Harold D. Lasswell
06Part Six Art Classification; criticism; various arts 2 3, 9 12 Mark Van Doren
07Part Seven Technology History and elements of technology; various technologies 3 2, 5, 8 15 Lord Peter Ritchie Calder
08Part Eight Religion General observations; various religions 2 2, 9 11 Wilfred Cantwell Smith
09Part Nine The History of mankind History organized by continent and epoch 7 2, 4, 7, 5, 2, 11, 8 39 Jacques Barzun
10Part Ten The Branches of Knowledge Logic, Mathematics, Science, Humanities, Philosophy, Library science 6 2, 3, 7, 2, 3, 1 18 Mortimer J. Adler

Each of the Parts is divided into 2-7 Divisions, which are themselves divided into 2-11 Sections. These Sections form the basic categories of knowledge in the schema, and each one is given a special three-part numerical code to encode its place in the Outline's hierarchy. For example, the section "Military Technology" has the code "736" indicating that it is the 6th Section of the 3rd Division ("Major Fields of Technology") of the 7th Part ("Technology"). Forward slashes are used when a Part, Division or Section has more than one digit; for example, the Section "History and Philosophy of Logic" has the code "10/11" indicating that it is the 1st section of the 1st Division ("Logic") of the 10th Part ("The Branches of Knowledge").

The Outline was an eight-year project of Mortimer J. Adler, published 32 years after he published a similar effort (The Syntopicon) that attempts to provide an overview of the relationships among the "Great Ideas" in Adler's Great Books series. (The Great Books were also published by the Encyclopædia Britannica Inc.) Adler stresses in his book, A Guidebook to Learning: For a Lifelong Pursuit of Wisdom, that the ten categories should not be taken as hierarchical but as circular.

The whole of the Propædia’s synoptic outline of knowledge deserves to be read carefully. It represents a twentieth-century scheme for the organization of knowledge that is more comprehensive than any other and that also accommodates the intellectual heterodoxy of our time.|20px|20px|Mortimer J. Adler| in A Guidebook (pp. 91-2).

Similar works

Other encyclopedias have provided analogous outlines of knowledge. In the Preface to the famous Encyclopédie (published 1751-1766), Diderot provides a roadmap to the knowledge of his time. Inspired by that example, in a letter dated 15 November 1812, Dugald Stewart proposed to Archibald Constable, the owner and publisher of the Britannica, that the supplement to its 5th edition should begin with a series of dissertations that outlined and organized the knowledge of their time. Another encyclopedia that presents a hierarchical outline of knowledge is Wikipedia. While the Propædia is a sentence outline, Wikipedia's set of Lists of basic topics is a topic outline of knowledge (though it is far from complete).

Contributors to the Outline of Knowledge

Table 2: Contributors to the Outline of Knowledge in the Propædia
Name Date of birth Date of death Part of Outline Description Index
Mortimer J. Adler 1902 2001 All Parts Editor 1
Charles Van Doren 1926 All Parts Associate editor; Editorial Vice President of Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. (1973-1982) 2
William J. Gorman 1982 All Parts Associate editor; Senior Fellow of the Institute for Philosophical Research 3
A. G. W. Cameron Matter and Energy Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University 4
Farrington Daniels 1889 1972 Matter and Energy Professor of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison 5
Morton Hamermesh Matter and Energy Professor of Physics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis (1975-1986) 6
Vincent E. Parker Matter and Energy Emeritus Professor of Physics, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Dean, School of Science (1967-1977) 7
Richard J. Chorley 1927 2002 The Earth Professor of Geography, University of Cambridge; Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge 8
William Stelling von Arx The Earth Senior Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (1968-1978) 9
Peter John Wyllie The Earth Professor of Geology and Chairman, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology 10
N. J. Berrill Life on Earth Strathcone Professor of Zoology, McGill University (1946-1965) 11
V. G. Dethier 1993 Life on Earth Gilbert L. Woodside Professor of Zoology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst (1975-1993) 12
Louis S. Goodman Life on Earth Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City 13
Garrett Hardin 1915 2003 Life on Earth Emeritus Professor of Human Ecology, University of California, Santa Barbara 14
Ernst Walter Mayr 1904 2005 Life on Earth Alexander Agassiz Professor Emeritus of Zoology, Harvard University 15
John Alexander Moore Life on Earth Emeritus Professor of Biology, University of California, Riverside 16
Theodore T. Puck Life on Earth Professor of Biology, Biophysics and Genetics; Distinguished Professor of Medicine, University of Colorado, Health Sciences Center; Director, Eleanor Roosevelt Institute for Cancer Research 17
Birgit Vennesland Life on Earth Head, Vennesland Research Laboratory, Max Planck Society (1970-1981); Director, Max Planck Institute for Cell Physiology, Berlin (1968-1970) 18
Paul B. Weisz Life on Earth Professor of Biology, Brown University 19
Ralph H. Wetmore Life on Earth Emeritus Professor of Botany, Harvard University 20
Emil H. White Life on Earth D. Mead Johnson Professor of Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University 21
Wilfrid Edward Le Gros Clark 1895 1971 Human Life Professor of Anatomy, University of Oxford 22
Russell S. Fisher 1985 Human Life Chief Medical Examiner, State of Maryland; Professor of Forensic Pathology, University of Maryland Medical School, Baltimore 23
F. Clark Howell Human Life Professor of Antropology, University of California, Berkeley 24
Gregory A. Kimble Human Life Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Duke University 25
Erich Klinghammer Human Life Associate Professor of Psychology, Purdue University 26
Warren Sturgis McCulloch 1899 1969 Human Life Staff member, Research Laboratory of Electronics, MIT (1952-1969) 27
William J. McGuire Human Life Professor of Psychology, Yale University 28
Peter Medawar 1915 1987 Human Life Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, 1960; Jodrell Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, University College London (1951-1962); Director, National Institute, Mill Hill, London (1962-1971); Scientific staff member, Medical Research Council, England (1971-1984) 29
William J. Baumol 1922 Human Society Professor of Economics, New York University; Emeritus Professor of Economics, Princeton University 30
Daniel Bell 1919 Human Society Henry Ford II Professor Emeritus of Social Science, Harvard University 31
Guiliano H. Bonfante Human Society Former Professor of Linguistics, University of Turin 32
Kenneth E. Boulding 1910 1993 Human Society Distinguished Professor of Economics, University of Colorado, Boulder 33
Lewis A. Coser 1913 2003 Human Society Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sociology, SUNY, Stony Brook 34
Sigmund Diamond Human Society Giddings Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Columbia University 35
Carl J. Friedrich 1901 1984 Human Society Eaton Professor of the Science of Government, Harvard University (1955-1971) 36
Paul Mundy Human Society Professor of Sociology and Chairman, Department of Criminal Justice, Loyola University Chicago 37
Kenyon E. Poole 1988 Human Society Professor of Economics, Northwestern University 38
C. Herman Pritchett Human Society Emeritus Professor of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara and University of Chicago 39
Sol Tax 1907 1995 Human Society Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago (1948-1976); Director, Center for the Study of Man, Smithsonian Institution 40
Charles Raymond Whittlesey Human Society Emeritus Professor of Finance and Economics, University of Pennsylvania 41
Rudolf Arnheim 1904 Art Emeritus professor of Psychology of Art, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University 42
Robert Jesse Charleston 1994 Art Keeper, Department of Ceramics, Victoria and Albert Museum (1963-1976) 43
Clifton Fadiman 1904 1999 Art Member, Board of Editors, Encyclopædia Britannica 44
Francis Fergusson 1904 1986 Art Professor of Comparative Literature, Rutgers University (1953-1969); Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University (1973-1981) 45
John Gloag 1981 Art Novelist and writer on architecture and industrial design 46
Richard Griffith 1969 Art Curator, Museum of Modern Art Film Library (1951-1965); Lecturer on Motion Pictures, Wesleyan University (1967-1969) 47
Richard Hoggart 1918 Art Professor of English, University of Birmingham (1962-1973); Warden, Goldsmiths' College, University of London (1976-1984) 48
Edward Lockspeiser 1973 Art Officier d'Académie, Paris; Writer and broadcaster on music. 49
Roy McMullen 1984 Art Author, critic, and art historian 50
Leonard B. Meyer 1918 Art Benjamin Franklin Professor of Music and Humanities, University of Pennsylvania 51
Michael Morrow 1994 Art Music editor, Encyclopædia Britannica; Director, Musica Reservata, London 52
Beaumont Newhall 1908 1993 Art Director, Eastman Kodak House (1958-1971); Visiting Professor of Art, University of New Mexico (1971-1984) 53
Herbert Read 1893 1968 Art Watson Gordon Professor of Fine Art, University of Edinburgh (1931-1933); editor, The Burlington Magazine (1933-1939); Charles Eliot Norton professor of Poetry, Harvard University (1953-1954) 54
Richard Roud 1989 Art Program Director, London (1959-1963) and New York (1963-1987) Film Festivals; Film critic, The Guardian (1963-1969) 55
George Savage 1982 Art Art consultant; author of Porcelain Through the Ages, Pottery Through the Ages, and other works 56
Wolfgang Stechow 1974 Art Professor of Fine Arts, Oberlin College (1940-1963) 57
Joshua C. Taylor 1981 Art William Rainey Harper Professor of Humanities and Professor of Art, University of Chicago (1963-1974); Director, National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution 58
Everard M. Upjohn 1978 Art Professor of Fine Arts, Columbia University (1951-1970) 59
Pierre Verlet Art Chief Curator, Cluny Museum (1945-1965); Chief Curator, National Museum of Sèvres Porcelain (1945-1965); Chief Curator of Art Objects from the Middle Ages to the Modern Period, Louvre Museum (1945-1965) 60
René Wellek 1903 1995 Art Sterling Professor of Comparative Literature, Yale University (1952-1972) 61
Glynne William Gladstone Wickham Art Emeritus Professor of Drama, University of Bristol; Dean, Faculty of Arts (1970-1972) 62
Raymond (Henry) Williams 1988 Art Professor of Drama, University of Cambridge (1974-1983); Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge (1961-1988) 63
Paul S. Wingert 1974 Art Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University 64
Bruno Zevi 1918 2000 Art Professor of Architectural History, University of Rome (1963-1979) 65
Konstantinos Apostolos Doxiadis 1975 Technology Chairman, Doxiadis Associates International; Chairman, Board of Directors, Doxiadis Associates, Inc.; Washington D.C. Chairman, Board of Directors, Athens Technological Organization; President, Athens Center of Ekistics 66
Eugene S. Ferguson 1916 2004 Technology Emeritus Professor of History, University of Delaware; Curator of Technology, Hagley Museum, Greenville Delaware 67
Melvin Kranzberg 1917 1995 Technology Callaway Professor of the History of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology (1972-1988) 68
Harvey G. Mehlhouse Technology Vice President, Western Electric Company, New York City (1965-1969); President (1969-1971); Chairman of the Board (1971-1972) 69
Robert Smith Woodbury 1983 Technology Professor of the History of Technology, MIT 70
Arthur Llewellyn Basham 1914 1986 Religion Professor of Asian Civilizations, Australian National University 71
James T. Burtchaell Religion Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame; Provost (1970-1977) 72
J. V. Langmead Casserley 1978 Religion Professor of Apologetics, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary 73
Ichiro Hori 1974 Religion Professor of the History of Religions, Seijo University and Kokugakuin University 74
Jaroslav Jan Pelikan Religion Sterling Professor of History, Yale University; President, American Academy of Arts and Sciences 75
Jakob Josef Petuchowski 1991 Religion Sol and Arlene Bronstein Professor of Judeo-Christian Studies, Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati (1981-1991) 76
Jacques Barzun 1907 The History of Mankind University Professor Emeritus, Columbia University; Dean of Faculties and Provost (1958-1967) 77
Otto Allen Bird The Branches of Knowledge Emeritus Professor of Arts and Letters, University of Notre Dame 78
Wing-Tsit Chan 1901 1994 The Branches of Knowledge Professor of Chinese Philosophy and Culture, Dartmouth College (1942-1966); Anna R. D. Gillespie Professor of Philosophy, Chatham College (1966-1982) 79
William H. Dray The Branches of Knowledge Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and of History, University of Ottawa 80
Norwood Hanson 1967 The Branches of Knowledge Professor of Philosophy, Yale University (1963-1967) 81
J. H. Hexter 1910 1996 The Branches of Knowledge Charles L. Stillé Professor of History, Yale University (1967-1978); Distinguished Historian in residence, Washington University (1978-1986) 82
Ernan V. McMullin The Branches of Knowledge Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame 83
Karl Menger 1902 1985 The Branches of Knowledge Professor of Mathematics, Illinois Institute of Technology (1946-1971) 84
Arthur Norman Prior 1969 The Branches of Knowledge Fellow, Balliol College, University of Oxford; Professor of Philosophy, Manchester University (1959-1966) 85
Nicholas Rescher 1928 The Branches of Knowledge University Professor of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh; editor, American Philosophical Quarterly 86
Seymour Schuster The Branches of Knowledge Professor of Mathematics, Carleton College 87

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