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June 5, 1972

A Bibliography of Sir William Petty, F.R.S. and of

Author Affiliations

Beth Israel Hospital New York


Observations on the Bills of Mortality by John Graunt, F.R.S., by Geoffrey Keynes, 103 pp, 13 illus, $17.75, London: Oxford University Press, 1971.

JAMA. 1972;220(10):1366. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200100076032

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Somewhat neglected because few of his works were published in his lifetime (and some remain unpublished today), Sir William Petty (1623-1687), an early and influential member of the Royal Society, was a seminal figure in the development of economic theory and ideas of social welfare. Early in his career he was professor of anatomy at Oxford, and scattered through his writings are ideas on education of doctors, the role of hospitals in society, and a concept of egalitarianism in medical care prefiguring 19th and 20th century "reforms." The Observations on the Bills of Mortality, by John Graunt (1620-1674), was the first serious effort to deal with what has become the study of vital statistics, and Petty assisted Graunt in preparing them for publication, inasmuch as they furnished a useful application of his theory of "political arithmetic."

Sir Geoffrey Keynes, himself a physician widely admired for his biography of William Harvey