The Rouse Ball Lecture for 2007
Professor Sir Roy Anderson, FRS, FMedSci
Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology,
Imperial College London
The Mathematics of Epidemics: History Of and Recent Developments in Epidemic Outbreak Analysis
Thursday 17th May at 12 Noon.
Room 3, Mill Lane lecture rooms.
All interested are invited to attend.
Human fascination with epidemics of infectious diseases and the
associated patterns of mortality has a long history. Examples include
the epidemics discussed by the Chinese scholar, Ssu Kwong, who lived
during the Sing Dynasty (AD 9601279), the epidemics of the Greek
scholar Hippocrates (458377 BC), the rudimentary statistics of John
Grant (162074) and William Petty (162387), who studied the London
Bills of Mortality in the seventeenth century, and the detailed
description of epidemics by Richard Mead ('Discourse on Plagues'
16731754) who so nearly interested Isaac Newton in the geometry of
epidemic curves.
The foundations of today's approaches to the mathematical description
of infectious disease transmission and control go back to the 1700s
with Daniel Bernoulli's work in 1760 on a simple mathematical model to
evaluate the effectiveness of variolation to protect against
smallpox. Daniel Bernoulli was one of a number of early mathematicians
who turned their skills to probability problems raised by gamblers 
often at the card tables in Monte Carlo.
The lecture will chart some of this history, starting with the work of
Ronald Ross the Nobel Laureate who discovered the role of mosquitoes
in the transmission of malaria, and moving through to the
sophisticated models in use today for planning for an influenza
pandemic. The application of mathematical approaches to further
understanding of disease transmission and control will be illustrated
by reference to recent epidemics such as HIV and AIDS, Foot and Mouth
disease, SARS and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).
