Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Osiris. 2004;19:39-61.

Natural histories of infectious disease: ecological vision in twentieth-century biomedical science.

Author information

  • 1Department of Medical History and Bioethics, University of Wisconsin Medical School, 1440 Medical Sciences Center, 1300 University Ave., Madison, WI 53706-1532.


During the twentieth century, disease ecology emerged as a distinct disciplinary network within infectious diseases research. The key figures were Theobald Smith, F. Macfarlane Burnet, René Dubos, and Frank Fenner. They all drew on Darwinian evolutionism to fashion an integrative (but rarely holistic) understanding of disease processes, distinguishing themselves from reductionist "chemists" and mere "microbe hunters." They sought a more complex, biologically informed epidemiology. Their emphasis on competition and mutualism in the animated environment differed from the physical determinism that prevailed in much medical geography and environmental health research. Disease ecology derived in part from studies of the interaction of organisms - micro and macro - in tropical medicine, veterinary pathology, and immunology. It developed in postcolonial settler societies. Once a minority interest, disease ecology has attracted more attention since the 1980s for its explanations of disease emergence, antibiotic resistance, bioterrorism, and the health impacts of climate change.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Loading ...
    Support Center