Sozial- und Präventivmedizin

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 80–89 | Cite as

Statistical methods in epidemiology: Karl Pearson, Ronald Ross, Major Greenwood and Austin Bradford Hill, 1900–1945

  • Anne Hardy
  • M. Eileen Magnello
Series: History of Epidemiology


The tradition of epidemiological study through observation and the use of vital statistics dates back to the 18th century in Britain. At the close of the 19th century, however, a new and more sophisticated statistical approach emerged, from a base in the discipline of mathematics, which was eventually to transform the practice of epidemiology. This paper traces the evolution of that new analytical approach within English epidemiology through the work of four key contributors to its inception and establishment within the wider discipline.

Key words

Epidemiology History Statistics 


Die Tradition der beobachtenden epidemiologischen Studien und die Verwendung der Bevölkerungsstatistik geht ins 18. Jahrhundert in Grossbritannien zurück. Zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts setzte sich jedoch ein neuer und anspruchsvollerer statistischer Ansatz durch, der seine Basis in der mathematischen Disziplin hat und letztendlich die epidemiologische Praxis veränderte. Der vorliegende Artikel befasst sich mit der Entwicklung dieser neuen analytischen Methode in der englischen Epidemiologie. Dies geschieht anhand der Arbeit von vier Männern, die ganz wesentlich zur Einführung und Anerkennung dieser Methode innerhalb der weiter gefassten Disziplin beigetragen haben.


La tradition des études épidémiologiques basées sur l'observation et sur l'utilisation des statistiques sanitaires remonte en Angleterre, au 18e siècle. A l'orée du 20e siècle, cependant, une approche statistique nouvelle et plus sophistiquée est apparue, reposant sur les mathématiques, qui va transformer la pratique de l'épidémiologie. Cet article retrace l'évolution de cette nouvelle approche analytique au sein de l'épidémiologie anglaise à travers les travaux de quatre personnes qui ont contribué à son élaboration et à son établissement en tant que discipline plus large.


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne Hardy
    • 1
  • M. Eileen Magnello
    • 1
  1. 1.Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCLLondonEngland

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