Projects that aim to integral all human knowledge.


Outline of Knowledge, which seeks to provide a logical framework for all human knowledge



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.

In March 2012, Britannica's president, Jorge Cauz, announced that it would not produce any new print editions of the encyclopaedia, with the 2010 15th edition being the last. This was announced as a move by the company to adapt to the times and focus on its future using digital distribution.[1]




Outline of Knowledge[edit]

Analogous to the Britannica itself, the Outline has three types of goals: epistemological, educational, and organizational.[2] 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 theOutline of Knowledge[clarification needed].[2]


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).


Each of the ten Parts contains from 2 to 7 Divisions, which in turn contain from 2 to 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").

Table 1: The Outline of Knowledge in the Propædia
10 Parts 41 Divisions 167 Sections Lead Author Introduction

1. Matter and


1.1 Atoms

1.1.1 Structure and Properties of Atoms
1.1.2 Atomic Nuclei and Elementary Particles

Nigel Calder "The Universe of the Physicist, the Chemist, and the Astronomer"

1.2 Energy, Radiation, and
 States of Matter


1.2.1 Chemical Elements: Periodic Variation in Their Properties

1.2.2 Chemical Compounds: Molecular Structure and Chemical Bonding

1.2.3 Chemical Reactions

1.2.4 Heat, Thermodynamics, Liquids, Gases, Plasmas

1.2.5 The Solid State of Matter

1.2.6 Mechanics of Particles, Rigid and Deformable Bodies: Elasticity, Vibration, and Flow


1.2.7 Electricity and Magnetism,

1.2.8 Waves and Wave Motion


1.3 The Universe


1.3.1 The Cosmos

1.3.2 Galaxies and Stars

1.3.3 The Solar System


2. The Earth


2.1 Earth's Properties, Structure, Composition


2.1.1 The Planet Earth

2.1.2 Earth's Physical Properties

2.1.3 Structure and Composition of the Earth's Interior

2.1.4 Minerals and Rocks


Peter John Wyllie "The Great Globe Itself"
2.2 Earth's Envelope

2.2.1 The Atmosphere

2.2.2 The Hydrosphere: the Oceans, Freshwater and Ice Masses

2.2.3 Weather and Climate


2.3 Surface Features


2.3.1 Physical Features of the Earth's Surface

2.3.2 Features Produced by Geomorphic Processes


2.4 Earth's History


2.4.1 Origin and Development of the Earth and Its Envelopes

2.4.2 The Interpretation of the Geologic Record

2.4.3 Eras and Periods of Geologic Time


3. Life


3.1 The Nature and
     Diversity of Life

3.1.1 Characteristics of Life
3.1.2 The Origin and Evolution of Life
3.1.3 Classification of Living Things
René Dubos "The Mysteries of Life"
3.2 The Molecular Basis
     of Life

3.2.1 Chemicals and the Vital Processes
3.2.2 Metabolism: Bioenergetics and Biosynthesis
3.2.3 Vital Processes at the Molecular Level

3.3 The Structures
     and Functions
     of Organisms

3.3.1 Cellular Basis of Form and Function
3.3.2 Relation of Form and Function in Organisms
3.3.3 Coordination of Vital Processes: Regulation and Integration
3.3.4 Covering and Support: Integumentary, Skeletal, and Musculatory Systems
3.3.5 Nutrition: the Procurement and Processing of Nutrients
3.3.6 Gas Exchange, Internal Transport, and Elimination
3.3.7 Reproduction and Sex
3.3.8 Development: Growth, Differentiation, and Morphogenesis
3.3.9 Heredity: the Transmission of Traits

3.4 The Behavior
     of Organisms

3.4.1 Nature and Patterns of Behavior
3.4.2 Development and Range of Behavioral Capacities: Individual and Group Behavior

3.5 The Biosphere

3.5.1 Basic Features of the Biosphere
3.5.2 Populations and Communities
3.5.3 Disease and Death
3.5.4 Biogeographic Distribution of Organisms: Ecosystems
3.5.5 The Place of Humans in the Biosphere

4. Human Life


4.1 The Development
     of Human Life
4.1.1 Human Evolution
4.1.2 Human Heredity: the Races
Loren Eiseley "The Cosmic Orphan"
4.2 The Human Body:
     Health and Disease

4.2.1 The Structures and Functions of the Human Body
4.2.2 Human Health
4.2.3 Human Diseases
4.2.4 The Practice of Medicine and Care of Health

4.3 Human Behavior
     and Experience

4.3.1 General theories of human nature and behavior
4.3.2 Antecedent conditions and developmental processes affecting a person's behavior and conscious experience
4.3.3 Influence of the current environment on a person's behavior and conscious experience: attention, sensation, and perception
4.3.4 Current Internal states affecting a person' behavior and conscious experience
4.3.5 Development of Learning and Thinking
4.3.6 Personality and the Self: Integration and Disintegration

5. Society


5.1 Social Groups:
    Ethnic groups and Cultures

5.1.1 Peoples and Cultures of the World
5.1.2 The Development of Human Culture
5.1.3 Major Cultural Components and Institutions of Societies
5.1.4 Language and Communication
Harold D. Lasswell "Man the Social Animal"
5.2 Social Organization
     and Social Change

5.2.1 Social Structure and Change
5.2.2 The Group Structure of Society
5.2.3 Social Status
5.2.4 Human Populations: Urban and Rural Communities

5.3 The Production,
     Distribution, and
     Utilization of Wealth

5.3.1 Economic Concepts, Issues, and Systems
5.3.2 Consumer and Market: Pricing and Mechanisms for Distributing Goods
5.3.3 The Organization of Production and Distribution
5.3.4 The Distribution of Income and Wealth
5.3.5 Macroeconomics
5.3.6 Economic Growth and Planning

5.4 Politics and

5.4.1 Political Theory
5.4.2 Political Institutions: the Structure, Branches, & Offices of Government
5.4.3 Functioning of Government: the Dynamics of the Political Process
5.4.4 International Relations: Peace and War

5.5 Law

5.5.1 Philosophies and Systems of Law; the Practice of Law
5.5.2 Branches of Public Law, Substantive and Procedural
5.5.3 Branches of Private Law, Substantive and Procedural

5.6 Education

5.6.1 Aims and Organization of Education
5.6.2 Education Around the World

6. Art


6.1 Art in General
6.1.1 Theory and Classification of the Arts
6.1.2 Experience and Criticism of Art; the Nonaesthetic Context of Art
6.1.3 Characteristics of the Arts in Particular Cultures
Mark Van Doren "The World of Art"
6.2 Particular Arts

6.2.1 Literature
6.2.2 Theater
6.2.3 Motion Pictures
6.2.4 Music
6.2.5 Dance
6.2.6 Architecture, Garden and Landscape Design, and Urban Design
6.2.7 Sculpture
6.2.8 DrawingPaintingPrintmakingPhotography
6.2.9 Decoration and Design|Functional Design

7. Technology


7.1 Nature & Development
     of Technology
7.1.1 Technology: Its Scope and History
7.1.2 The Organization of Human Work
Lord Peter Ritchie-Calder "Knowing How and Knowing Why"
7.2 Elements of Technology

7.2.1 Technology of Energy Conversion and Utilization
7.2.2 Technology of Tools and Machines
7.2.3 Technology of Measurement, Observation, and Control
7.2.4 Extraction and Conversion of Industrial Raw Materials
7.2.5 Technology of Industrial Production Processes

7.3 Fields of Technology

7.3.1 Agriculture and Food Production
7.3.2 Technology of the Major Industries
7.3.3 Construction Technology
7.3.4 Transportation Technology
7.3.5 Technology of Information Processing and of Communications Systems
7.3.6 Military Technology
7.3.7 Technology of the Urban Community
7.3.8 Technology of Earth and Space Exploration

8. Religion


8.1 Religion in General 8.1.1 Knowledge and Understanding of Religion
8.1.2 Religious Life: Institutions and Practices
Wilfred Cantwell Smith "Religion as Symbolism"
8.2 Particular Religions

8.2.1 Prehistoric Religion and Primitive Religion
8.2.2 Religions of Ancient Peoples
8.2.3 Hinduism and Other Religions of India
8.2.4 Buddhism
8.2.5 Indigenous Religions of East Asia: Religions of China, Korea, and Japan
8.2.6 Judaism
8.2.7 Christianity
8.2.8 Islam
8.2.9 Other Religions and Religious Movements in the Modern World

9. History


9.1 Ancient Southwest Asia,
     North Africa, and Europe
9.1.1 Ancient Southwest Asia and Egypt, the Aegean, and North Africa
9.1.2 Ancient Europe and Classical Civilizations of the Mediterranean to AD 395
Jacques Barzun "The Point and Pleasure of Reading History"
9.2 Medieval Southwest Asia
      North Africa and Europe

9.2.1 The Byzantine Empire and Europe from AD 395—1050
9.2.2 The Formative Period in Islamic History, AD 622—1055
9.2.3 Western Christendom in the High and Later Middle Ages 1050—1500
9.2.4 The Crusades, the Islamic States, and Eastern Christendom 1050—1480

9.3 East, Central, South,
     and Southeast Asia

9.3.1 China to the Beginning of the Late T'ang AD 755
9.3.2 China from the Late T'ang to the Late Ch'ing AD 755—1839
9.3.3 Central and Northeast Asia to 1750
9.3.4 Japan to the Meiji Restoration 1868, Korea to 1910
9.3.5 The Indian Subcontinent and Ceylon to AD 1200
9.3.6 The Indian Subcontinent 1200—1761, Ceylon 1200—1505
9.3.7 Southeast Asia to 1600

9.4 Sub-Saharan Africa
     to 1885

9.4.1 West Africa to 1885
9.4.2 The Nilotic Sudan and Ethiopia AD 550—1885
9.4.3 East Africa and Madagascar to 1885
9.4.4 Central Africa to 1885
9.4.5 Southern Africa to 1885

9.5 Pre-Columbian America

9.5.1 Andean Civilization to AD 1540
9.5.2 Meso-American Civilization to AD 1540

9.6 The Modern World
     to 1920

9.6.1 Western Europe 1500—1789
9.6.2 Eastern Europe, Southwest Asia, and North Africa 1480—1800
9.6.3 Europe 1789—1920
9.6.4 European Colonies in the Americas 1492—1790
9.6.5 United States and Canada 1763—1920
9.6.6 Latin-America and Caribbean to 1920
9.6.7 Australia and Oceania to 1920
9.6.8 South Asia Under European Imperialism 1500—1920
9.6.9 Southeast Asia Under European Imperialism 1600—1920
9.6.10 China until Revolution 1839–1911, Japan from Meiji Restoration to 1910
9.6.11 Southwest Asia, North Africa 1800—1920, Sub-Saharan Africa 1885—1920: Under European Imperialism

9.7 The World Since 1920

9.7.1 International Movements, Diplomacy and War Since 1920
9.7.2 Europe Since 1920
9.7.3 The United States and Canada Since 1920
9.7.4 Latin American and Caribbean Nations Since 1920
9.7.5 China in Revolution, Japanese Hegemony
9.7.6 South and Southeast Asia: the Late Colonial Period and Nations Since 1920
9.7.7 Australia and Oceania Since 1920
9.7.8 Southwest Asia and Africa: the Late Colonial Period and Nations since 1920

10. Branches


10.1 Logic


10.1.1 History and Philosophy of Logic
10.1.2 Formal Logic, Metalogic, & Applied Logic
Mortimer J. Adler "Knowledge Become Self-conscious"

10.2 Mathematics


10.2.1 History and Foundations of Mathematics
10.2.2 Branches of Mathematics
10.2.3 Applications of Mathematics

10.3 Science


10.3.1 History and Philosophy of Science
10.3.2 The Physical Sciences
10.3.3 The Earth Sciences
10.3.4 The Biological Sciences
10.3.5 Medicine
10.3.6 The Social Sciences, Psychology, Linguistics
10.3.7 The Technological Sciences

10.4 History and
       The Humanities


10.4.1 Historiography
10.4.2 The Humanities and Humanistic Scholarship

10.5 Philosophy


10.5.1 History of Philosophy
10.5.2 Divisions of Philosophy
10.5.3 Philosophical Schools and Doctrines

10.6 Preservation
      of Knowledge


10.6.1 Institutions and Techniques for the Collection, Storage, Dissemination and Preservation of Knowledge

The Outline was an eight-year project of Mortimer J. Adler, published 22 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.

— Mortimer J. Adler, in A Guidebook, pp. 91-2

outline 是Mortimer J.Adler 一个持续了8年的项目,


“ outline 给出了知识的框架,值得仔细阅读,它代表了20世纪人类对知识的组织,比以前的任何一个时代都详尽,且包容了我们时代的各种异端知识“



Similar works[edit]

Other encyclopedias have provided analogous outlines of knowledge. In the Preface to the famous Encyclopédie (published 1751-1772), d'Alembert 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.