Timeline for the History of Public Health and Epidemiology

Timeline for the History of Public Health and Epidemiology






Timeline for the History of Public Health and Epidemiology

Hippocrates (500 BC)

Western medicine was founded by Hippocrates between 460 BC and 380 BC. He came up with the modern perspective in his treatise entitlement on air, water and places. He sought the logic in sickness. He is the first person to examine the relationship between disease and environment. He believed sickness was cause by an imbalance in fire, water, air and atoms. He also coined the term epidemic and his work was published in the 5th century. For this reason, he is considered the father of medicine.

John Graunt (1620-1674)

This is the period that saw an increase in understanding on the need to collect qualitative data for the purpose of defining the state. The purpose of data collection was to understand health status. John Graunt is therefore considered the father of descriptive epidemiology. He studied death data for the past 75 years in London and found a trend that lead to predictability of mortality with respect to natural events and phenomenon. From this data, he was in a position to develop the first life table. Descriptive epidemiology is the first stage of epidemiologic investigation. It has a focus on describing disease distribution by the characteristics relating to time, place and person.

Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689)

He was the first to recognize the difference in the plagues that affected London in the 1600s and he also believed that observations should drive the study of the disease. In mid 1650s, Thomas started his studies on epidemics. Observationes Medicae, a book for 2 countries, in 1676 presented the theory on epidemic constitution. An example is the Conditions in the environment that caused the occurrence of acute diseases in (1683). He discovered the link between fleas and typhus fever. He then introduced opium to be used for medical purposes and became the first to use iron-deficiency anemia. Moderately treating smallpox by using cinchona was also introduced. Treatment of fever. Moderate treatment of fever with cooling drink and fresh air was an improvement on the sweating methods previously used.

Edward Jenner (1749-1823) 

Jenner discovered and theorized that cowpox was protecting farmers in his community in some way. He developed smallpox vaccine from a liquid extracted from pox sore and managed to offer vaccination for small pox (Cartwright, 1972). This was very remarkable step in his time since this came at a time when the existence of viruses wasn’t known. The immune system wasn’t understood either. His work and effort helped to piece together with the information that was in existence at that time to start the journey of epidemiology that saved lives. For his work on vaccine, he is well respected and fitted the historical timeline that really changed the epidemiology world.

Lemuel Shattuck (1793-1859)

He is commonly referred to as Prophet of American Health. He was the first to publish a report on public health in the United States and sanitation problems. His report lead to awareness and public health programs locally in the US. He also recommended sanitary inspections, health recommendation exchange and analysis of vital statistics (Willrich, 2011). He also outlined the basic system of public health. He as generally regarded and respected for beginning sickness awareness in America.

Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890)

In 1842 social reformer, Edwin Chadwick, published his report on the Inquiry into Sanitary Conditions of the Laboring Population of Great Britain. This report contained major health challenges facing England leading to the beginning of reform in the health sector. His efforts had a tremendous improvements in the public health department. Formation of Health associations and various branches that were based in the city followed rapidly. These movements contributed to the passing of the public health act in the year 1848

John Snow (1813-1888)

John came up with the idea that they may be caused by invisible tiny and parasites. In the 1600s, germ theory had been proposed but nobody believed that these tiny organisms made people sick when they were discovered. John decided to track the progress of the disease and track to see how it really spread. . When cholera hit London, John observed the symptoms and made a realization that cholera was spread through water. Treating water using chlorine aided in ending the epidemic. For this reason, he is considered the father of epidemiology. His work contributed a lot to understanding and thus the title.

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) 

Louis Pasteur was a French microbiologist who conducted tests and experiments that supported the germ theory and completely did away with the theory of spontaneous generation. Some of his celebrated achievements include inoculation of the first vaccine for rabies and popular for studies on fermenting beverages. He discovered that microorganisms developed during the process. He came up with the process that liquids like milk could heated so that bacteria and moulds could be killed. He is also known for working on fermenting beverages and discovered that microorganism could develop during this process.

Robert Koch (1843-1910)

Robert Koch was a German scientist and one of the founders of bacteriology. He developed technical procures and methods of dealing with anthrax, tuberculosis and cholera. These methods are still being used today. He put down the 4 criteria that must be followed and fulfilled to establish a relationship between a parasite and disease. The criteria are known as Koch’s Postulates. For his work, Koch was awarded the Nobel Prize in the field of Physiology or Medicine in the year 1905

Yellow Fever

United States Army Yellow Fever Commission in 1900 proved that Aedes aegypti mosquito was the vector for yellow fever. The commission was headed by Walter Reed (1857-1902). This brought to an end the belief that yellow fever was spread by direct contact with infected people or contaminated objects. People’s efforts were now focused on eradication of mosquitoes.


Cartwright, F. F. (1972). Disease and history. New York: Crowell.

Willrich, M. (2011). Pox: An American history. New York: Penguin Press.

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