Early Theories and Debating Determinants of Disease Distribution—Poison, Filth, Class, & Race (1600–1900)
Bodies Count: Epidemiology Emerges as a Self-Defined Scientific Discipline
Chapter 3 analyzes epidemiology's emergence as a self-designated discipline in early modern Europe. It discusses how epidemiologic thinking was revolutionized by: (1) acceptance of numerical methods and statistical probability for analyzing human phenomena (counter to prevalent views about inscrutable divine will and free choice), (2) classification of diseases as discrete entities, and (3) changing patterns of life, death and disease arising from the Industrial Revolution, colonialism and the slave trade. The chapter then analyzes the era's three major debates about determinants of disease distribution: (1) miasma versus contagion; (2) conservative versus liberal versus radical explanations for the greater burden of illness on the poor; and (3) whether observed racial/ethnic differences in disease were due to innate differences, climate, or injustice. Researchers whose work is discussed include: Petty, Graunt, Halley, Sydenham, Rush, Tristan, Chadwick, Shattuck, Snow, Alison, Virchow, Engels, Villermé, Hirsch, Blumenbach, Morton, Agassiz, Cartwright, Jarvis, McCune Smith, and Rock.
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