The History of Epidemiology- Vanessa Sabbagh

  • Period: 460 BCE to 375

    Hippocrates: Greek Physician

    Hippocrates was known as the father of medicine and was the very first epidemiologist. He was the first person to examine the occurrence of disease and environmental influences. He believed that sickness was caused by an imbalance of the four Humors; air, fire, water, and earth atoms. He created the term "Endemic" for the diseases found in some places but not in others, and "Epidemic" for diseases that were seen at some times but not others. (
  • Period: Aug 1, 980 to Jun 21, 1037

    Avicenna (Ibn Sina)

    Avicenna was a Persian philosopher, scientist, and physician. He wrote on many topics during the Dark Ages, including health and medicine. His contributions of disease causation and his emphasis on empirical evidence had an enormous influence on both medicine and public health. His book "Canon of Medicine" is the most renowned textbook of medicine ever written. It had a long-lasting influence in the East and West, and was still in use as late as 1650. (Epidemiology: An Introduction, 11)
  • Period: Jan 1, 1478 to Aug 8, 1553


    Fracastoro was a Renaissance physician. He extended the concept of contagion by suggesting a theory about how contagious diseases spread. In his book, "De contagione et contagiosis morbis et curatione" he described many diseases, such as the plague, typhus, and syphilis, that were transmitted from person to person. He suggested a theory that disease was spread through living, self-replicating particles or "seminaria". This was the basis of the germ theory. (Epidemiology: An Introduction, 11)
  • Period: Jan 1, 1582 to

    Wu Youke

    Wu Youke developed the idea that some diseases were caused by transmissible agents, which he called "liqi" or pestilential factors. His concepts are still considered in current scientific research in relation to Traditional Chinese Medicine studies. (Taken from
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    Thomas Sydenham

    Thomas Sydenham was the first to recognize the differences of the fevers that plagued London in the late 1600's. His theories went against the usual approach, so they were criticized. He insisted that observation should drive the study of the course of disease. (Taken from
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    Bernardino Ramazzini

    As a physician, Ramazzini was noted as an early proponent for the use of cinchona bark (source of quinine) to treat malaria. His biggest achievement was his book "De morbis artificum diatriba", the first comprehensive work on occupational diseases and industrial hygiene. It described risks related to dozens of occupational hazards. He counseled physicians to inquire about the work activities and workplace exposures of their patients. (Epidemiology: An Introduction, 14)
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    Edward Jenner

    In 1796, Edward Jenner introduced the Smallpox vaccination; the first successful vaccine to be developed. He observed that milkmaids who had previously caught cowpox did not later catch smallpox. He showed that inoculated cowpox protected against inoculated smallpox. The term "vaccine" is derived from "Variolae vaccinae", which means smallpox of the cow. (Taken from
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    Lemuel Shattuck

    Lemuel Shattuck published a report on sanitation problems and public health in Massachusetts in 1850. It was the first health report in the U.S. The report set many public health programs and needs for the next century including establishing state and local boards of health, exchange of health information, sanitary inspections, and analysis of vital statistics. (Taken from
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    Dr. John Snow

    Dr. John Snow is known as the father of modern Epidemiology. In the 19th century, he investigated the causes of the cholera epidemics. He noticed the rise of death rates in two areas of London. He found a specific pump as the cause of this epidemic. He used chlorine in an attempt to clean water and had the handle removed; ending the outbreak. This was a major event in the history of public health and regarded as the founding event of the science of epidemiology. (
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    Wade Hampton Frost

    At the start of the 20th century the germ theory was still relatively new. Frost was called to New Orleans to investigate an outbreak of Yellow Fever. The role of the mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti, in the transmission of yellow fever had only been recently established. Frost and his team spent weeks eliminating breeding spots for the mosquitoes and prevented spread of the outbreak. It was the last epidemic of Yellow Fever in the U.S. (Epidemiology: An Introduction, 19)