Faced with the expanding volume and increasing complexity of information on the pathogenesis of disease, teachers of pathology are confronted with what at first appears to be a no-win situation: teach only the bare essentials of the discipline and leave aside scientific inquiry, or teach pathology as a biologic science and run the risk of diluting the practical essentials. Choosing solutions to this dilemma involves implicit judgments on what pathology really is and on the intelligence and motivation of medical students. Can they accept some degree of uncertainty and think for themselves? And what about the discipline of pathology, still called morbid anatomy in several parts of the world? While at the birth of modern medicine pathologists were medical scientists (almost the only ones), medical science at that time and for many decades after meant mostly the anatomical description of disease. As the understanding of the biologic basis of disease increased, most notably during the explosive growth of recent decades, pathologists were slow in adapting and incorporating these changes. Pathology was in danger of becoming a diagnostic specialty and losing its historical function as a science dedicated to the study of disease mechanisms.
The fourth edition of the Pathologic Basis of Disease presents pathology as both basic medical science and clinical specialty and finds successful answers to the questions posed above. The basic philosophy of the book appears in its preface: to achieve "as much brevity as is compatible with thoroughness and sufficient discussion to permit easy understanding" and "to unfold a rounded, full story rather than attempt to achieve brevity by short, more difficult to comprehend telegraphic condensations." The authors treat their readers as intelligent people by presenting information to be understood rather than memorized and by placing the material in a context that is easy to recall.