Joseph Goldberger and Pellagra

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  • Director, Parasitic Diseases Division, Bureau of Epidemiology, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia

One way to appraise the historical importance of an individual is to consider the effect that his work has on the lives of the generations that follow him. By this measure Joseph Goldberger surely ranks among the great men of medicine in the 20th Century. Another way to judge a man's stature is to consider the manner in which he worked. Here, too, Goldberger was preeminent. His investigations are models for present and future generations of epidemiologists. Indeed, 60 years after his study of pellagra in 24 South Carolina mill towns this work is still used in schools of public health and the Center for Disease Control to teach students how to assemble, analyze, and interpret epidemiologic data. His investigations were characterized by the careful collection and critical examination of facts, by thoughtful analysis and hypothesis formation, and by searching experiments to test the validity of these hypotheses.