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May 31, 1965


JAMA. 1965;192(9):779-780. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03080220043017

William Farr, founder of the English system of vital statistics, was born at Kenley in Shropshire. His parents, of humble circumstances, permitted his adoption in infancy by a wealthy and benevolent squire, Joseph Pryce. He assisted the elderly guardian in his affairs of commerce, meanwhile educating himself without benefit of formal instruction.1 At the age of 19, Farr turned to medicine, studying with Dr. Webster of Shrewsbury and, as dresser, assisting Mr. Sutton at the Shrewsbury Infirmary. In 1829, supported by a legacy from his adopted father, he continued his studies at Hôtel Dieu, La Charité, and La Pitié in Paris. Dupuytren in surgery, Louis in medical statistics, Andral in hygiene, and Gay-Lussac in chemistry were brilliant lights on the highly reputable faculty at that time. A great interest in and talent for medical statistics and hygiene led to his appointment in the Registrat-General's office.

Before returning to England,