Farr, William, 1807-1883

William Farr, 1807-1883, was born in Kenley, Shropshire. At the age of two, he was effectively adopted by a local squire, Joseph Pryce, who paid for Farr's education. From 1826 to 1828, Farr worked as a dresser in the infirmary at Shrewsbury and studied medicine with a doctor there. On Pryce's death in 1828, Farr received a legacy that enabled him to pursue his studies in Paris and Switzerland. In 1831, Farr returned to Shrewsbury to work as an unqualified locum before studying at University College London, becoming a licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries. In 1833, he established an apothecary's practice in Bloomsbury, London, and proceeded to publish a number of articles in The Lancet on such topics as hygiene, quack medicine, life assurance and cholera. Farr had first demonstrated an interest in medical statistics during his studies abroad, and in 1832 he published his "Vital Statistics" in Macculloch's Account of the British Empire , thus starting a new interest in statistics. From 1838 to 1879, he worked in the Registrar General's Office compiling abstracts. In 1855, he served on the Committee for Scientific Enquiry into the cholera epidemic of 1854, and produced statistical evidence that cholera was spread by polluted water, though he and his colleagues continued to adhere to the theory that epidemic disease was spread by miasma. Farr also served as commissioner for the 1871 census. He retired from public service in 1879.

From the guide to the FARR, William, 1807-1883, Statistician, 1853-1883, (British Library of Political and Economic Science)

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