From Stacy Bilby:

“In 1840, Farr submitted a letter to the Annual Report of the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages in England. In that letter, he applied mathematics to the records of deaths during a recent smallpox epidemic, proposing that:

“If the latent cause of epidemics cannot be discovered, the mode in which it operates may be investigated. The laws of its action may be determined by observation, as well as the circumstances in which epidemics arise, or by which they may be controlled.”

He showed that during the smallpox epidemic, a plot of the number of deaths per quarter followed a roughly bell-shaped or “normal curve”,and that recent epidemics of other diseases had followed a similar pattern.”

The next time someone tells you “But the Wuhan Virus is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before”, remind them that we’ve experienced contagion since Eve got us kicked out of the garden.  They come and go, sometimes they are worse than others, but they are not ‘new’ in the big scheme of things, and while their localized behavior can differ (NYC vs Nashville, for example), even those causes can be understood and predicted.

Interesting stuff on Farr here

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