Timeline of epidemiology
This is a timeline of epidemiology, attempting to describe the evolution of the field over time. Epidemiology has become a standard area of clinical science, and is the most fundamental basic science of public health.
|Time period||Development summary|
|17th century||The field of epidemiology emmerges. The first feature of the century relevant to the emergence of the discipline is the availability of population data about causes of death, in particular deaths from plague.|
|19th century||John Snow, Ignaz Semmelweis, Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, Florence Nightingale, and others make important contributions to the field of epidemiology during the century. In the mid 1800s the focus of epidemiology is just on infectious diseases and epidemics. By mid to late century, bacteria are being identified as major causes of diseases.|
|20th century||Epidemiology begins to focus on infectious diseases overall in the mid–century.|
|1960s||Epidemiology begins to focus on laws regarding the distribution of disease at a community level.|
|1980s||Late in the decade, epidemiology starts focusing on how to control or minimize health problems and diseases.|
|21th century||Subfields of epidemiology, like E-epidemiology, keep rising and developing.|
An epidemiologic transition describes changing patterns of population age distributions, mortality, fertility, life expectancy, and causes of death.
|Hunter–gatherer to cities||First epidemiologic transition, ocurring circa 10,000 BC with the advent the agricultural revolution. People become less dependent on hunting and gathering and begin producing food and domesticating animals. This brings the emergence of infectious diseases and diseases related to nutrition, caused by the new practice of agriculture and food production. This shift would bring zoonotic diseases, nutrient deficiencies and increased contact with disease vectors. Few epidemics turn into major epidemics.|
|Immunologic resisteance and organism change||The second transition takes place at a time where human immune systems and disease-causing organisms both evolve, resulting in a change from major epidemics of disease to endemic disease. People develop physical and genetic changes that serve to minimize the effects of diseases.|
|Public health and sanitation||Disease patterns change from infectious to chronic and degenerative diseases in developed parts of the world due to improvements in nutrition, public health, and clinical medicine. Cardiovascular diseases and cancer begin to occur more during this transition. They are often associated with the longer lifespan and a sedentary lifestyle.|
|Increased globalization||There's a resurgence and rapid spread of infectious diseases. Starting at the end of the 20th century, globalization provoques both new diseases and the reemergence of infectious ones occuring as well as the rapid spread of disease.|
|Year||Event type||Details||Country/geographical location|
|460–377 BC||Scientific development||Hippocrates is considered to be the first epidemiologist. In his three books entitled Epidemic I, Epidemic III and On Airs, Waters and Places, Hippocrates attempts to describe disease from a rational perspective, rather than a supernatural basis. Hippocrates observes that different diseases occur in different locations. He also notes that malaria and yellow fever most commonly occur in swampy areas. Hippocrates also introduces terms like epidemic and endemic.|
|1546||Scientific development||Italian physician Girolamo Fracastoro publishes his writing on contagion and contagious diseases, proposing that diseases are each caused by a rapidly multiplying seed, and that the seeds are transmitted by direct contact, air, or contaminated garments.|
|1662||Scientific development||English amateur statistician John Graunt publishes his Natural and Political Observations ... upon the Bills of Mortality. In it, he analyzes the mortality rolls in London before the Great Plague, presenting one of the first life tables, and reporting time trends for many diseases, new and old. Graunt provideds statistical evidence for many theories on disease, and also refutes some widespread ideas on them. Graunt describes disease occurrence and death with the use of systematic methods and develops and calculates life tables and life expectancy.||United Kingdom|
|1624–1689||Scientific development||Thomas Sydenham approaches the study of disease from an observational angle rather than a theoretical one.|
|1754||Scientific development||Scottish naval surgeon James Lind publishes A Treatise on Scurvy, in which he identifies the symptoms of scurvy and the fact that the disease becomes common in sailors after as little as a month at sea.||United Kingdom|
|c.1774||Scientific development||English farmer/dairyman Benjamin Jesty notices his milkmaids never get smallpox, but cowpox from the cows. Jesty comes to the conclusion that there's a link between acquiring cowpox and not getting smallpox. Jesty would expose his wife and children to cowpox to protect them from smallpox, with success.|
|c.1775||Scientific development||English surgeon Percivall Pott writes that a mixture of noxious substances (i.e., chimney soot), when not removed from the skin after occupational exposure, could cause a specific cancer. Percivall Pott is considered to be the first person to show that an environmental carcinogen may cause cancer.|
|1807–1883||Scientific development||British epidemiologist William Farr advances John Graunt's work in order to better describe epidemiologic problems.||United Kingdom|
|1850||Publication||Lemuel Shattuck publishes the first report on sanitation and public health problems in the Commonwealth of Massachussets. This marks the beginning of epidemiology in the United States.||United States|
|1854||Scientific development||English physician John Snow demonstrates, during an epidemic in London, that the transmission of cholera is significantly reduced when uncontaminated water is provided to the population. Snow is considered one of the most important contributors to the field of epidemiology.||United Kingdom|
|1857||Convention||The first quarantine convention is held in the Unied States. The prevention of typhus, cholera, and yellow fever is discussed. Port quarantine and the hygiene of immigrants are also of concern. Public health educational activities begin at this time.||United States|
|1870–1879||Scientific development||German physician Robert Koch shows that anthrax is transmissible and reproducible in experimental animals (mice). The epidemiologic significance that Koch demonstrates is that the anthrax bacillus is the only organism that causes anthrax in a susceptible animal.||Prussia|
|1879||Publication||A. H. Buck publishes Hygiene and Public Health, an early major book on public health, which includes epidemiologic topics.|
|1882–1883||Scientific development||German microbiologist Robert Koch, in the process of discovering the causes of anthrax, cholera and tuberculosis, develops methods and technical procedures still used today by epidemiologists. Koch asserts that four criteria must be fulfilled to establish a causal relationship between a parasite and a disease. These criteria are known as Koch’s Postulates.|
|1886||Scientific development||The first major epidemiologic implication of deficiency illness comes in this year when the Dutch commission the firm of C. A. Pekelharing and Winkler who sends army doctor Christian Eijkman to the East Indies to investigate the cause of beriberi. In site, Eijkman observes that chickens fed on polished rice develop symptoms of beriberi and recover promptly when the food is changed to whole rice. However, Eijkman would mistakenly attribute the cause of the disease to a neurotoxin.|
|1887||Treatment||Japanese naval surgeon T. K. Takaki eradicates beriberi from the Japanese navy by adding vegetables, meat, and fish to their diet, which until date was mostly rice.||Japan|
|1900||Scientific development||The infectious nature of yellow fever is established.|
|1906||Policy||Standard methods of water analysis are adopted in the United States.||United States|
|1913||Scientific development||The pasteurization of milk is shown to be effective in controlling the spread of disease.|
|1913||Organization||The Harvard School of Public Health is established as the first school of public health in the United States.||United States|
|1938||Scientific development||The term "clinical epidemiology" is introduced.|
|1965||The American Journal of Hygiene (first published in 1921) is renamed American Journal of Epidemiology.||United States|
|1967||The term neuroepidemiology is first introduced by Dr. Len Kurland, Dr. Milton Alter and Dr. John F. Kurtzke.|
|1971||Publication||Professor Abdel R. Omran, working at the University of North Carolina, writes “Conceptually, the theory of epidemiologic transition focuses on the complex change in patterns of health and disease and on the interactions between these patterns and their demographic, economic and sociologic determinants and consequences.” Since this publication, the theory of epidemiological transition would be adopted and prove useful in laying out an overarching perspective on changing demographic patterns.||United States|
|1973||Kilburn E. et al. introduce the notion "molecular epidemiology" into the scientific literature.|
|1978||The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health arises from the British Journal of Social and Preventive Medicine, first issued in 1947 as the British Journal of Social Medicine.||United Kingdom|
|1982||Scientific development||The term "molecular cancer epidemiology" is introduced by Parera and Weinstein.|
|1982||Organization||The International Clinical Epidemiology Network (INCLEN) is established to strengthen the research capacity of medical schools in the developing world through the development of Clinical Epidemiology Units (CEUs).|
|1985||Publication||The European Journal of Epidemiology is founded as a forum on the epidemiology of communicable and non-communicable diseases and their control.|
|1988||The Journal of Chronic Diseases is renamed Journal of Clinical Epidemiology.|
|1990||Blackwell Scientific introduces new journal Epidemiology, to meet the need of an expanding body of epidemiologic research looking for a place to publish.|
|1998||Organization||The International Consortium in Psychiatric Epidemiology (ICPE) is established by the World Health Organization to carry out cross-national comparative studies of the prevalences and correlates of mental disorders.|
|2004||Organization||A Computational Epidemiology Research Laboratory (CERL) is established at the University of North Texas to conduct and promote research in computational epidemiology.||United States|
|2007||Ekman and Litton introduce the term e-epidemiology, defining it as "the science underlying the acquisition, maintenance and application of epidemiological knowledge and information using digital media such as the Internet, mobile phones, digital paper, and digital TV. E-epidemiology also refers to the large-scale epidemiological studies that are increasingly conducted through distributed global collaborations enabled by the Internet".|
|2009||The 2009 influenza A pandemic proves that the joint evolutionary and epidemiological investigation of rapidly evolving pathogens is both feasible and can provide useful and timely information for public health and epidemic control decisions.|
|2010||Scientific development||The term "molecular pathological epidemiology" is used by Shuji Ogino and Meir Stampfer.|
|2012||Scientific development||It is recognized that many pathogens' evolution is rapid enough to be highly relevant to epidemiology, and that therefore much could be gained from an interdisciplinary approach to infectious disease integrating epidemiology and molecular evolution to "inform control strategies, or even patient treatment".|
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