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Case Assignment: Introduction to Theory-Base Research and the Scientific Method

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Case Assignment: Introduction to Theory-Base Research and the Scientific Method

The father of epidemiology, John Snow (1813-1858), and a once chief medical statistician, William Farr (1807-1883), utilized the scientific method in various ways. The implementation of the scientific method reveals to how collected information can be translated in final findings. The studies of both 17th century men set precedence for how the historical importance has morphed in complexity and magnitude.

The Works and Findings of John Snow

As a medical school student, John Snow attended the Hunterian School of Medicine in London. In his tenure there, Snow learned what was at the time becoming "new hospital" medicine. Such practices were inclusive of outward lesions being integrated into inward pathologies, utilization of Laennec's stethoscope, and experimental research in chemistry, vivisection, and physiology. The experience he acquired at Hunterian is accredited by his gained skills and vision utilized in his later works (Snow, 2004.) In 1848, Snow developed a basic theory on the cholera. The theory was based on the pathology of cholera as well as the therapeutics. Snow came to this theory through analogical reasoning (Eyler, 2001.) There was a period of time prior to Snow's investigation of cholera that he studied respiration. The research extended also to carbon monoxide poison and asphyxia. This research enlightened Snow to air being a mode of transfer (Snow, 2004.)

Snow had various methods in which to pinpoint cholera's first symptoms as abdominal pains. His studies revealed that abdominal pain indicated that contrary to smallpox, syphilis, and cowpox, that the morbid material was on the stomach surface instead of the in the blood. This material acted as an irritant that revealed as stomach pain of cholera victims unlike fever that presented in other epidemics. Snow also found this to be true due to discharge of the intestines in cholera victims. He found that treatments inclusive of chalk, opium, and catechu warranted a response to the disease. This further confirmed the gut as a focal area for the cholera poison since symptoms such as dehydration, vomiting, pain, and diarrhea subsided (Eyler, 2001.)

John Snow's studies were in compliance with the scientific method. The scientific method is based on seven steps: 1. Ask a Question, 2. Do Background Research, 3. Construct a Hypothesis, 4. Test with an Experiment, 5. Analyze Results and Draw Conclusions, 6. Determine if the Hypothesis is True, False, or Partially True; partially true and false hypotheses go back to step three, 7, Report Results (Kenneth, 2008.) The first step of the scientific method as described by the Kenneth Lafferty Hess Family Charitable Foundation is to ask a question. During the cholera outbreak of in 1849, Snow asked the questions: "What was the cause of cholera?" and "How was it being transmitted (Snow, 2004?") It was not until the next cholera epidemic hit that he had an opportunity to research what had occurred in the previous epidemic. After conducting background research, Snow hypothesized that cholera was an epidemic of the gut. Providing experimental treatments such as opium, catechu, and chalk resulted in a subsiding of the some symptoms of cholera. However patients were still dying from the disease. The results from the patients' intestinal discharge proved Snow's theory to be true. He reported his results yet continued to study to find a complete cure for the disease.

Information from William Farr

William Farr was a medical statistician who played a major role in collection of data pertaining to the cholera epidemic. Farr worked in the office of the registrar as the Registrar General and was able to collect data on the victims of cholera. While the major tasks of Farr's position included registering births, deaths, and marriages, he was later appointed



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