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April 10, 1996

Investigating Disease Patterns: The Science of Epidemiology

Author Affiliations

Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health Baltimore, Md

JAMA. 1996;275(14):1133-1134. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530380075041

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


In Investigating Disease Patterns Stolley and Lasky invite the reader on an exciting and comprehensive tour of the discipline of epidemiology. They trace its evolution and techniques from early beginnings to the most recent developments. At the end, one is left with a broad understanding of the progress of epidemiology as a science, its achievements, and its future directions.

In the opening chapters, the reader is introduced to basic concepts in epidemiology as they apply to outbreaks of infectious diseases, their characterization, and the field investigation involved. Also, the relationship of epidemiology to the scientific method is mentioned, with a reference to Sir Karl Popper, who proposed that scientific theories are not proven by the repetition of supporting experiments but by the absence of falsifying or contradictory evidence, although the application of Popper's views is still controversial in epidemiology. The authors next present the early history of epidemiology, emphasizing advances