Chapter 2

Pioneers in Epidemiology and Public Health

  1. Although epidemiologic research is greatly facilitated by computers, its conduct is based on enumerating events in populations and is not especially dependent on technology. The ideas needed to conduct epidemiologic research could have been developed and applied long ago. Speculate as to why epidemiologic research did not become commonplace until the middle of the 20th century.

  2. Both Snow and Semmelweiss conducted research that showed how one might prevent infectious disease before the germ theory was accepted. Yet the existence of microorganisms had been known for almost 200 years, since van Leeuwenhoek first described what he saw under a microscope. Speculate on the nature of social and scientific thinking of the time that hindered the scientists of the 19th century from accepting the role of microorganisms in disease.

  3. Graunt and Farr advanced the field of epidemiology by studying public records and vital statistics, setting examples for generations of epidemiologists. Others, such as Snow and Semmelweiss, devised studies to collect their own data, which required considerable time and effort but was possible as an independent effort. Today, collection of ad hoc epidemiologic data is expensive and oft en requires collaborative efforts and substantial funding that must be approved in a peer-review process. It appears that peer review, had it been necessary, might have been an obstacle to Snow and Semmelweiss. Give arguments listing the strengths and weaknesses of a system of peer review for funding of scientific research.

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