Philosophical Historiography of Epidemiology

  • Vijay Kumar Yadavendu


This chapter commences with a discussion on the origins of modern epidemiology, which is considered as the basic science of public health. The inherent vision of public health discourse was to keep the population or the collective at the centre while investigating the aetiology of disease as well as formulating health policies. Epidemiology, subsequent to the discovery of germ theory, took a completely new turn towards the location of disease aetiology within bacteria and other such organisms. It marked a shift from multifactorial to a single-factor explanation of disease causation. It was therefore forgotten that epidemiology is the study of complex interacting variables impinging on and altering others while themselves undergoing modifications, a shimmering ‘web of causation’. The approach that emerged was essentially reductionist and shifted the focus away from population to an individual, from multiple causes to single ones, from the environment to the clinic, the bacterium and finally to the gene. This is obvious in the three principal phases of epidemiological practice, namely, risk factor, clinical and molecular epidemiology. Each of these successive phases takes the public health discourse closer to the tradition of methodological individualism.


Molecular Epidemiology Clinical Epidemiology Early Nineteenth Century Disease Aetiology Disease Causation 


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© Springer India 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vijay Kumar Yadavendu
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMagadh UniversityBodh GayaIndia

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