Valery Tuchin, a leading expert in biophotonics and biomedical optics, guest editor of the special issue on in vivo flow cytometry (1), coeditor of the Journal of Biophotonics (2), and editor of numerous textbooks recently published a dictionary on biomedical optics and biophotonics (3).

Biophotonics can be described as the “development and application of optical techniques, particularly imaging, to the study of biological molecules, cells and tissue”. One of the main benefits of using optical techniques which make up biophotonics is that they preserve the integrity of the biological cells being examined, according to Wikipedia (4), with an extensive explanation.

So one may critically ask: Is it timely to publish a printed dictionary in the era of Wikipedia? The dictionary with approximately 2500 key terms and 576 pages is bolded throughout the text to direct the reader from definition to definition (similar to a hyperlink) and gives a rich understanding of the terminology in this quickly developing field. The key terms were selected by Professor Tuchin from the glossaries of his numerous text books on this topic and all definitions are precise and to the point. It contains all terms relevant for those working with biological material in combination with high-end optical technologies and is thereby a unique publication in the field.

Even so, why have a 700g book on your shelf when all the information is also available on the web, in addition to rich information density, graphical explanations, and so on? But is the web information really better? I made, as an experimental scientist, the test. I selected arbitrary key words from the dictionary and looked them up in Wikipedia. And the answer is yes, you can also find the terms on the web but most explanations are extensive whereas those in the dictionary are crisply short and topically focused on biophotonics' relationship. Not only that, but looking the terms up in the book is (astonishingly) faster than doing it via the internet.

Still, for the electronic display aficionados the whole content of the dictionary is also available in electronic format so that you may also search and find key words on your tablet PC.

Who should read it? In my view, Valery Tuchin's dictionary is a must-have reference for all novices in the field. It is a rapid way to find definitions and connections with other fields and should be on the optical bench in any biophotonic laboratory.

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