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One can only appreciate the magnitude of effort required to develop a dictionary by actually experiencing it. Although I had written nine other books, I certainly did not know what I was getting into when in January of 1996 I agreed to serve as Editor-inChief for this project. Now, after 2 1/2 years I understand. Unlike other books that I have written, creating this dictionary was more a test of will and stamina and an exercise in project management than mere writing.
And although I have managed organizations of up to 80 academics, nothing is more like “herding cats” than motivating an international collection of almost 200 distinguished engineers, scientists, and educators scattered around the globe almost entirely via email. Yet, I think there is no other way to undertake a project like this. I still marvel at how Noah Webster must have managed to construct his English Dictionary without the benefits of modern communication. But this project, as much as it is a monument to individual will, is really the collaborative work of many brilliant and dedicated men and women. This is their dictionary and your dictionary.
The first and most important task undertaken by the area editors was to develop a list of terms to be defined. A terms list is a list of terms (without definitions), proper names (such as important historical figures or companies), or acronyms relating to Electrical Engineering. What went into each terms list was left to the discretion of the area editor based on the recommendations of the contributing authors. However, lists were to include all technical terms that relate to the area (and subareas).
Technical terms of a historical nature were only included if it was noted in the definition that the term is “not used” in modern engineering or that the term is “historical” only. Although the number of terms in each list varied somewhat, each area’s terms list consisted of approximately 700 items. Once the terms lists were created, they were merged and scrutinized for any obvious omissions. These missing terms were then assigned to the appropriate area editor. At this point the area editors and their contributing authors (there were 5 to 20 contributing authors per area) began the painstaking task of term definition.
This process took many months. Once all of the terms and their definitions were collected, the process of converting, merging, and editing began. The dictionary included contributions from almost 200 contributors from 17 countries. Although authors were provided with a set of guidelines to write terms definitions, they were free to exercise their own judgment and to use their own style. As a result, the entries vary widely in content from short, one-sentence definitions to rather long dissertations.
While I tried to provide some homogeneity in the process of editing, I neither wanted to tread on the feet of the experts and possibly corrupt the meaning of the definitions (after all, I am not an expert in any of the representative areas of the dictionary) nor did I want to interfere with the individual styles of the authors. As a result, I think the dictionary contains a diverse and rich exposition that collectively provides good insights into the areas intended to be covered by the dictionary. Moreover, I was pleased to find the resultant collection much more lively, personal, and user-friendly than typical dictionaries.