Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



One of today's most fecund fields of research in medical geography involves using historical datasets from past epidemics and contemporary cadastre maps to plot the course of the contagion. The purpose is to study the spatial patterns of diseases that are rare or extinct today but still have large research value. The best example of this problem is smallpox. This project involves taking one of the most complete records of a smallpox epidemic, plotting the cases in a geographic information system (GIS), and exploring the spatial patterns using statistical software. As one of the most contagious and damaging diseases to infect humans, the World Health Organization mission to remove smallpox from the human world officially concluded in 1979 (Tucker 2001; Henderson 1978). However, with the advent of bioengineering and the more recent growth in bioterrorism-related research it has become vital for researchers to examine the behavior of smallpox in various human environments (Tucker 2001). Researchers have begun to mine antique records for well-documented epidemics (Mortimer 2003; Mortimer and McVail 2002; Williams 1994; Angulo, et al. 1980a, 1980b; Morrill and Angulo 1981, 1979; Thomas 1974). The historical record for this project is the report of a medical officer assigned by the British government to investigate and control an outbreak of smallpox in Sheffield, United Kingdom. This outbreak, which began in August 1887, expanded into an epidemic, killing 598 people. Dr. Frederick Barry, the medical officer, recorded the demographic information for all the victims. This data set, combined with Charles Goad Fire Insurance maps, was used to create a GIS and complete spatial analyses of the epidemic.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Andrew Curtis