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Farr, William (1807–1883)

  • In: Encyclopedia of Epidemiology
  • Edited by: Sarah Boslaugh
  • Subject:Public Health (general), Public Health Research Methods , Epidemiology & Biostatistics

William Farr is one of the major figures in the history of epidemiology. A British physician with an unusual knowledge of statistics, Farr was appointed Compiler of Abstracts at the General Register Office of England and Wales, which registers births, marriages, and deaths. He worked almost 40 years in analyzing statistics from England and Wales and pioneered the quantitative study of morbidity and mortality.

Farr developed a classification of causes of death, constructed the first English life table, and made major contributions to occupational epidemiology, comparing mortality in specific occupations with that of the general population. In a report presented in 1864, Farr addressed the disproportionate high number of deaths among miners in Cornwall, showing that at each age level, the rate of mortality attributed to ...

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