LAST UPDATE : March 25, 2011





History of epidemiology



A contribution to the History of Epidemiology:

" History of epidemiologic methods and concepts"

Editor : Alfredo Morabia

Publisher: Birkhauser Verlag, Basel, Switzerland, 2004

ISBN: 3-7643-6818-7
Pages: 405
Price: $ 119.00
or 98 Euros
Available from: Birkšuser Boston , Verlagslieferung Balmer, CH,,, Amazon Japan, Barnes and Noble , Springer Online

Erratum: PDF

Reviews: Reviews by Gene Pezzola, Miquel Porta, Herman van Oyen and John S. Marr MD "tgkameron"

Miquel Porta in European Epidemiology Association Newsletter [PDF]

Jonathan Samet in American Journal of Epidemiology 2005 161(6):604-605

Herman van Oyen Sozial- und Pršventivmedizin/Social and Preventive Medicine, Volume 50, Issue 3, Jun 2005, Pages 186 - 187 [PDF]

Robert Beaglehole in Bulletin of the World Health Organisation 2005; 83 (7): 556 [PDF]

Josep Bernabeu-Mestre in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2005;59:1102 [PDF]

Anthony J McMichael in Statistics in Medicine 2005; 24:3679-80 [PDF]

Thomas Behrens. A History of Epidemiologic Methods and Concepts edited by A. Morabia
Biometrics 2006;62 (1): 303–303.

Gariepy, Thomas P. A History of Epidemiologic Methods and Concepts (review)
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences - Volume 62, Number 1, January 2007, pp. 117-119

John S. Marr, MD, The Epidemiology Monitor Newsletter July 2005
Epiphanies in the arts and sciences are often deceivingly simple and beg the question as to why no one had conceived of the idea before. A History of Epidemiologic Methods and Concepts, edited by Alfredo Morabia, exemplifies this proposal. Clearly, this book would have been hungrily consumed by students decades ago, and cited by their professors who wished to provide a historicity to epidemiology. In all probability (no p value given here) the book is destined to become required reading for those entering the field of epidemiology, and a joy for those already immersed in it. It is also unlikely to become outdated, but as its editor cautions, epidemiology like all sciences (and arts) will continue to evolve in future years.

This is a text on the epistemiology of epidemiology -- a process that began in the eighteenth century and was refined in the Victorian era. Descriptions of its forefathers’ concepts (Farr, Graunt, Lind, Snow), are followed by methods used by their descendants (Goldberger, Frost, Hill), and were refined by many more recent, distinguished epidemiologists (many of whom have contributed to the book). Fascinating vignettes on some of the historical figures are provided, as well as an occasional allusion to Biblical and classical sources to illustrate a point. There are also some droll, behind-the-scenes observations on who really developed what, as well as the when and where of their observations.

The book is divided into two Parts. Part I has four historical themes: the evolution of population thinking (rates, ratios and proportions), group comparisons (study types, bias, sampling, causal inference), epistemology, and a precis of epidemiology’s evolutionary phases. The second Part is a collection of classic, historical papers annotated by commentaries given by nearly a score of internationally known epidemiologists. (Space here does not permit a listing of these, but provides a valuable peek at the complete index where it has received five-star reviews. This site should be consulted by prospective buyers).

The History of Epidemiologic Methods and Concepts is heady reading, but for those who enjoy intellectual confection treats, it is a rare, wonderful, and addicting read. It will be read, re-read, and referred to many times in one’s career and should be find a special place in a person’s library.

Table of content

Methods, just as diseases or scientists, have their own history. It is important for scientists to be aware of the genesis of the methods they use and of the context in which they were developed.

This book has two parts. The first part presents the evolution of epidemiologic methods and concepts. It serves as introduction and synthesis to the second part which is a collection of papers originally published in Social and Preventive Medicine (International Journal of Public Health).

Teaching epidemiology

This book has a place in the curriculum of students of epidemiology, because students may reach a better understanding of the methods and concepts when these are presented in their evolutionary context. Methods and concepts get refined when we are facing challenges that cannot be met using state-of-the-art approaches. These are situations of crisis that cry for innovative ideas. They provide great didactic examples.

The historical or scientific contexts in which innovation occurs may therefore be unique to understand the purpose of new approaches. As time goes by, successful innovations are formalized, become more abstract and their original purpose can sometimes be lost of sight in the process, especially for a person that discovers epidemiology.

How to use this book?
In order to facilitate the usage of this book for teaching purposes, an index of keywords is provided, which connects the entire content of the volume. In addition, the references of the two parts of the book have been grouped into a single bibliography section. I will try to make available additional material, including historical datasets, on the, choose history, either directly or through web links.

Download the table of content of "History of epidemiologic methods and concepts"
The table of contents is available as a pdf



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