Historical Review of Epidemiology

Key individuals and historical events have helped shape the field of epidemiology. Research
the following individuals and their roles in shaping contemporary epidemiology:
1.John Graunt
2.James Lind
3.Edward Jenner
4.Ignaz Semmelweis
5.John Snow
Choose three of the individuals from your research. In a 1,000-1,250 word paper, describe
the epidemiological advancements that were influenced by these individuals. Include the
following:
1.Describe the disease and the event. Using descriptive epidemiology, discuss how common
the disease was at the time, who was infected, when it occurred (time of year or season),
and the mode of transmission. If the individual is not associated with a specific disease,
discuss a significant disease happening during that period.
2.Discuss how the individuals influenced or advanced epidemiological methods and the
process they used to describe and control disease. Discuss how their contributions helped to
inform the definition of epidemiology. Consider whether they used qualitative,
quantitative, or both types of data collection methods, and the approach they used to test
their hypotheses.
3.Discuss how similar epidemiological methods have been used to understand one current
public health issue (not one for each individual). Discuss the key research studies used to
understand the risk factors associated with the problem or disease. Two potential examples
include lung cancer (Doll and Hill, 1950) or cardiovascular disease and the Framingham
Heart Study (Drawber, Meadors, & Moore, 1950; Kannel, 2000).

Historical Review of Epidemiology

John Graunt

John Graunt is recognized for helping introduce statistics into the field of science and
research. He is regarded as the founder of demography, which is the study of populations. Graunt
was born in London and therefore greatly studied the town’s populace. His studies of the London

HISTORICAL REVIEW OF EPIDEMIOLOGY 2
populace were published in a book called Natural and Political Observations Mentioned in a
following Index and Made Upon the Bills of Mortality (Graunt, 2018). At the time of his
research, there was an outbreak of plague in the city of London. The records he kept were,
therefore, very important as they helped in distinguishing various causes of death at the time.
The period between 1665 to 1666 was catastrophic for the city of London as close to a quarter of
the city’s populace was decimated by bubonic and pneumonic plague(Graunt, 2018).These two
strains of the plague were transmitted differently. Bubonic plague, for instance, was spread
through fleas which had interacted with rats. Individuals suffering from this type of plague could
be seen with buboes that were often painful. Pneumonic plague was however, more dangerous
compared with bubonic plague as it often killed its victims within a day of contracting the
disease.The pneumonic strain was transmitted through airborne means such as sneezing.
The agent responsible for the bubonic plague was identified as Yersinia pestis bacterium.
Deaths during the time of the plague were common and most of them were rightly attributed to
the plague outbreak. However, not all deaths were caused by the plague. Graunt’s work helped
distinguish between deaths that had been caused by the plague and those which had occurred due
to the various christenings that took place at the time. Graunt made use of records he found at the
parish registers. He could collect data, tabulate it and draw valid conclusions based on a variety
of factors. In the course of his work, Graunt discovered that mortality rates were higher in the
city of London than in the countryside.He attributed the deaths that occurred in the city to causes
such as overcrowding and disease. Graunt used quantitative means of data collection. This
served him well as he later discovered that diseases such as plague and syphilis had been under-
recorded.

Edward Jenner

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Edward Jenner is highly recognized for his contribution towards the eradication of
smallpox. Smallpox as a disease traces its origins to periods as early as 10,000 BC. Earlier
civilizations and societies found different ways of protecting against the disease and while the
methods they used worked, they were not completely effective as smallpox continued to cause
deaths in the subsequent years. In Europe, for instance,variolation was one of the methods that
was being used to protect against the disease. It became commonly known that affliction with the
disease provided further protection from subsequent affliction with the disease. Jenner’s shot at
finding the cure for smallpox marked the first scientific attempt at finding a cure for a disease
through vaccination. After successfully vaccinating several individuals who had been afflicted
withsmallpox, vaccination was widely accepted as the most preferred means of combatting the
disease.
During its early days, smallpox was quite dangerous as it could be easily transmitted from one
individual to another. Its symptoms resembled those of a common cold as its victims often
experienced fevers, muscle pains and headaches. Smallpox was caused by the Variola virus and
earlier societies and communities had long discovered variolation as an effective protection
mechanism against the disease.
In the late 1700s, it had long been thought that dairymaids possessed an innate resistance
to the disease. As Jenner began his apprenticeship work withGeorge Harwicke, he established a
close relationship with one of the dairymaids who later proved to be very instrumental in helping
Jenner come up with the vaccine against the virus. In developing the vaccine, Jenner utilized
tissue which he had derived from one of the dairymaids that had been afflicted with cowpox. He
then used the matter to inoculate a young boy who was suffering from the disease. Consequently,
the boy was healed of the disease and Jenner was motivated to conduct his research and

HISTORICAL REVIEW OF EPIDEMIOLOGY 4
experiments on greater scale.Jenner employed quantitative means of data collection. He
conducted various experiments and shared his findings with the scientific community who often
critiqued his work. Jenner’s hypothesis was that infection with cowpox conferred immunity
against subsequent smallpox infections. To test his hypothesis, Jenner sought volunteers that
would accept to be vaccinated with cowpox but this proved to be an uphill task as he could not
find any. While Jenner cannot be credited with the discovery of vaccination as protective
mechanism against polio, he is certainly recognized for being the first person to scientifically
pursue the procedure.

John Snow

John Snow is credited for extensively conducting studies of cholera. The disease was a
major problem in the 1800s and caused massive loss of lives. John is widely known for solving a
cholera outbreak that took place in London in 1854 (Gallin, 2018). The city of London was
struck by a serious cholera outbreak in 1854, a time when Snow had been extensively studying
the disease and its causes. Prior to John’s findings, it had been widely believed that the disease
was spread through airborne means. Through his paper, On the Mode of Communication of
Cholera, Snow was able to establish that the disease was spread through waterborne means.
Snow’s hypothesis was that the disease was spread through the intake or ingestion of
contaminated water. However, his theory and hypothesis failed to gain much traction in the
medical fraternity. Snow had continued to conduct experiments and research regarding the
spread of cholera even after the end of the epidemic. He was finally able to find evidence that
enabled him to associate the disease with specific sources of water. Like the other scientists,
Snow employed quantitative means of data collection. For instance, after the 1854 outbreak,

HISTORICAL REVIEW OF EPIDEMIOLOGY 5
Snow was able to track down a total of 83 victims and took down their details. He was also able
to track other 197 victims and also obtain their names and addresses.
The Framingham Heart Study is an epidemiological program that was established to
study cardiovascular diseases and their subsequent risk factors (Gallin, 2018). A significant
number of individuals across the world suffer from a variety of cardiovascular ailments and the
study aims to alleviate most of these health complications. The research is a cohort type of study
and involves the residents of Framingham Massachusetts. Research scientists at the
establishment have conducted a variety of experiments in a bid to understand the relationship
between metabolic risk factors and cardiovascular ailments. The methods used at Framingham
can be compared to those utilized by scientific researchers such as John Snow, Edward Jenner
and John Graunt.

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References

Gallin, J. I. (2018). A historical perspective on clinical research. In Principles and practice of
clinical research (pp. 1-15). Academic Press.
Graunt, J. (2018). Natural and political observations. In The Economics of Population (pp. 17
28). Routledge.

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