LETTERS: Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
We ought to be grateful to Warren Winkelstein, Jr. for bringing to our attention the life and work of Janet Lane-Claypon.1,2 It can be added that Janet Lane-Claypon's contribution to epidemiology appeared when it was historically expected.
It is indeed tempting to relate the work of Janet Lane-Claypon, born in 1877, to drastic changes in the women's role in society that occurred during the Age of Empire (1880–1914).3 Women such as Marie Curie, Selma Lagerlöf, and Rosa Luxemburg, just to name a few with prestigious careers, became key theoreticians in science, literature, and politics. Marie Curie (1867–1934) is the only person who received the Nobel Prize in 2 fields of science (physics in 1903 and chemistry in 1911). In 1909, Selma Lagerlöf (1858–1940) was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Polish-born Rosa Luxemburg (1870–1919), was leader of the German Social-Democratic Party. She debated and, in my opinion, intellectually dominated Edouard Bernstein and Vladimir Illich Lenin on strategy, economy, and nationalism.
Marie Curie, Selma Lagerlöf, and Rosa Luxemburg were contemporaries of Janet Lane-Claypon. Whether Florence Nightingale (1820–1910) was an epidemiologist is a matter of debate, but Janet Lane-Claypon is the first woman who enters epidemiology's portrait gallery for her innovations in epidemiologic methods, in that area preceding many better-known men (Hill, Goldberger, Greenwood, and Frost). The originality of her contribution would be impressive if only for her pioneering applications of retrospective cohort studies1 and case–control studies.4,5
While epidemiology may sometimes be considered an arcane scientific discipline, Lane-Claypon's contribution suggests that our field is not alien to the great currents of world history.
Center for the Biology of Natural Systems Queens College - CUNY Flushing, NY firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Winkelstein W Jr. Vignettes of the history of epidemiology: Three firsts by Janet Elizabeth Lane-Claypon. Am J Epidemiol
2. Winkelstein W Jr. Janet Elizabeth Lane-Claypon: a forgotten epidemiologic pioneer. Epidemiology
3. Hobsbawm E. The Age of Empire: 1875–1914
. New York: Vintage Books; 1989.
4. Lane-Claypon J. A further report on cancer of the breast: reports on public health and medical subjects. London: Ministry of Health; 1926.
5. Paneth N, Susser E, Susser M. Origin and early development of the case-control study. In: Morabia A, ed. History of Epidemiologic Methods and Concepts
. Basel: Birkhäuser, 2004:291–312.