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Wade Hampton Frost, Pioneer Epidemiologist 1880-1938

Wade Hampton Frost, Pioneer Epidemiologist 1880-1938: Up to the Mountain

Thomas M. Daniel
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 258
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  • Book Info
    Wade Hampton Frost, Pioneer Epidemiologist 1880-1938
    Book Description:

    Wade Hampton Frost was the first Professor of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in the first Department of Epidemiology in the United States. A Virginian and a graduate of the University of Virginia, Frost began his remarkable career with two decades of service in the United States Public Health Service. He investigated epidemics of yellow fever, typhoid, polio, streptococcal sore throat, meningitis, and influenza. His greatest contributions during this part of his career were the recognition that mild and asymptomatic childhood polio produced life-long immunity and the development of methods for tracking influenza epidemics. He was recruited to Johns Hopkins in 1919, where, as a Professor at the School of Hygiene and Public Health, he trained many of the future leaders of American public health programs. He made substantial contributions to epidemiologic methodology including developing the concept of an index case during investigations of tuberculosis in Tennessee, the use of life-table methods for estimating secondary attack rates, the use of age cohorts for longitudinal studies, and, in collaboration with Lowell Reed, the first mathematical expression of the epidemic curve. Thomas M. Daniel's biography tells the story of Frost's life and work. Drawing of Frost's personal papers and recorded interviews with his colleagues deposited in the Frost Archives at the University of Virginia Medical Center as well as material from the Fauquier County Heritage Society and Johns Hopkins University, Daniel recounts the story of Frost's life and provides many insights into the personal characteristics of his subject. Daniel also reviews Frost's work, examining his published papers and archived teaching notes to elucidate the scope of and manner in which Frost made his seminal contributions to epidemiology and public health. George Comstock, Emeritus Centennial Alumni Professor of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins has provided an introduction.Thomas M. Daniel is Professor Emeritus of Medicine.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-631-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    George W. Comstock

    Throughout my career in epidemiology, which has spanned much of the twentieth century, I often heard references to Wade Hampton Frost as the one who did the most to bring epidemiology into the ranks of scientific disciplines. And yet, when I recently looked through the medley of epidemiology textbooks in my library, I found his name mentioned in only about half of them, and then usually in connection with his paper on cohort analysis.¹ There was one notable exception. John R. Paul, in his book,Clinical Epidemiology, said:

    Frost did much to transform epidemiology in the United States from a...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  7. 1 By What Name?
    (pp. 1-4)

    “By what name shall this child be called?”

    The sun streamed in through the window of Trinity Church in Marshall, Virginia. It was a warm Sunday morning in 1880. Dr. Henry Frost was lost in reverie, his mind wandering in the past and paying scant attention to the words of the minister who was about to baptize his seventh child. Perhaps he was tired from an all-night vigil with a dying patient. Again, the minister’s voice intoned, “By what name …”

    “Wade Hampton,” said the father, starting from his inattention and speaking the name of the confederate general under whom...

  8. 2 Origins
    (pp. 5-12)

    Wade Hampton Frost was greatly interested in his ancestry, and his antecedents certainly had more than casual meaning for him. He corresponded with relatives in South Carolina, in England, and elsewhere to piece together his family tree. In fact, the Frost family was a prominent one in South Carolina, and Frost was able to collect published accounts of his forebears as well as pedigrees. Figure 2.1 illustrates this interest. It is a family tree in Frost’s handwriting tracing his ancestry back through his paternal grandmother, Mary Deas Lesesne (1807–1866), who married Henry Rutledge Frost, a prominent physician in Charleston,...

  9. 3 Marshall
    (pp. 13-30)

    At the end of the nineteenth century, Marshall, Virginia, was a one-street town, as it largely remains today. For about one mile on the road between Delaplane to the west and The Plains to the east, one-half acre lots faced each other across Main Street. Main Street was narrow and unpaved, but gracious and lined with mature shade trees. Most of the houses and buildings had porches, many ornately carved with latticed railings in the then-fashionable Victorian style. The trees and porches have long since been lost, fallen to the widening and paving of what is now Virginia Route 55....

  10. 4 Health of the People
    (pp. 31-48)

    Eighteen-year-old Wade Hampton Frost entered the University of Virginia in 1898. Both of his parents were well educated, and they made efforts to secure higher education for those of their children with an aptitude for learning. The young Frost was interested in medicine, and the University of Virginia had offered a medical degree from its inception. Thus, the decision was easily made, and August of 1898 saw him depart to Charlottesville to begin his university studies.

    The University of Virginia was founded by Thomas Jefferson, who had long been a promoter of higher education. During his long political career he...

  11. 5 Drink No Longer Water
    (pp. 49-72)

    Without water, life would not exist on earth. Without drinking water, humans cannot survive. Without safe drinking water, people cannot remain disease-free. Harmful parasites, bacteria, and viruses all inhabit fresh water, and if we are to have safe drinking water, they must be killed or removed. The New Testament enjoins, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.”² Today, we all assume that municipal water delivered into our homes is safe to drink. It was not always so.

    Massachusetts established a state hygienic laboratory in 1886, and William T. Sedgwick, perhaps...

  12. 6 Susan
    (pp. 73-92)

    No documents survive to indicate just when and how Frost met his bride-to-be, but some of the events can be surmised. Susan Noland Haxall had left her home in Middleburg, Virginia, at about age twenty-two and was living in an apartment in Washington. Middleburg is located in Fauquier County about fifteen miles northeast of Marshall—not far today, but a long enough buggy ride at the end of the nineteenth century, so that Frost and Susan Haxall had not met. The Haxall family home, named Exning for the English town in which the Haxalls had their genealogical roots, was located...

  13. 7 Dread Diseases
    (pp. 93-110)

    Charles Dickens characterized tuberculosis as a “dread disease, in which the struggle between soul and body is so gradual, quiet, and solemn, and the results so sure, that day by day and grain by grain, the mortal part wastes and withers away, so that the spirit grows light and sanguine.”² Wade Hampton Frost met tuberculosis in November 1917, and that encounter surely had an impact on his spirit if not his mortal part.

    In 1914 Europe became engulfed in the maelstrom of World War I. When a German submarine sank the Lusitania on May 7, 1915, with the loss of...

  14. 8 Baltimore
    (pp. 111-134)

    Following the conclusion of World War I and under the leadership of William Welch, Johns Hopkins University opened its School of Hygiene and Public Health, the first such institution in the United States. Wade Hampton Frost became its first professor of epidemiology.

    Johns Hopkins was a wealthy, unmarried, Quaker, Baltimore businessman who viewed his wealth as carrying an obligation to serve humanity. He established and endowed corporations for Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Hospital, each with twelve directors (ten individuals served on both boards). To each he gave $3.5 million in 1867. From the start, he indicated that medical...

  15. 9 Professor
    (pp. 135-164)

    The challenges—the tasks and the opportunities—facing Wade Hampton Frost as he took up his post at Johns Hopkins were enormous. He was charged with creating an academic curriculum in a discipline where none existed; indeed, the science of epidemiology was only minimally defined. “Epidemiology” means, literally, the study of that which is upon the people. The word in its Spanish form,epidemiología, may have first been used early in the nineteenth century by Joachin de Villalba in writing about diphtheria in Spain. As Frost knew it, the discipline was one of observation and investigation of disease outbreaks, whether...

  16. 10 Epidemiologist
    (pp. 165-194)

    Wade Hampton Frost spent the last two decades of his life at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The first ten years of his tenure there were largely devoted to launching the science of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins and throughout the public health and medical worlds of North America. He continued his work on influenza and water pollution, an enduring interest of his, and he remained a consultant to the United States Public Health Service in the latter area even after he resigned his commission. Yet important, broader, and more fundamental ideas were germinating in his fertile mind. During his second...

  17. 11 Sunset and Evening Star
    (pp. 195-198)

    As winter crept into Baltimore in late 1937, it became apparent that Wade Hampton Frost was not well. He was troubled with abdominal pain, and he had difficulty swallowing. He was losing weight. In January 1938 he cancelled a planned visit to his daughter in Boston because of chest pain. Soon it became evident that he had cancer of his esophagus. Even today that cancer is one that is hard to eradicate, and for Frost there was not much hope. Ironically, it was epidemiological methodology, much of it pioneered by Frost, that would later establish the link between this form...

  18. Bibliography of Publications by Wade Hampton Frost
    (pp. 199-204)
  19. Abbreviations of Scientific Journal Titles
    (pp. 205-205)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 206-230)
  21. Index
    (pp. 231-238)