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Eras in EpidemiologyThe Evolution of Ideas$
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Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195300666

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195300666.001.0001

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Vital Statistics: William Farr and the Creation of a System

Vital Statistics: William Farr and the Creation of a System

(p.65) 7 Vital Statistics: William Farr and the Creation of a System
Eras in Epidemiology

Mervyn Susser

Zena Stein

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on William Farr. In the latter half of the 19th century, both the concept of environment and the numerical approach to the understanding of related public health problems were firmly entrenched. Yet for much of the century, most British epidemiologists and many elsewhere were guided largely by Sydenham's theory of the interaction of miasmata with the ‘epidemic constitution’ of seasons. Accordingly, they had followed a general line of research into environmental effects. Among them was William Farr. Farr can be properly assigned a major role as a founder of epidemiology in its modern analytic form. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was to institute and write the Annual Reports of the Registrar General, the first appearing in 1839. These described and analyzed the health status of the country in terms of the database he had himself devised to enumerate births, marriages, and deaths.

Keywords:   database, William Far, John Simon, physicians epidemiologists, Sydenham

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