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We still know too little on the historical influences of social and political forces on epidemiological research.
(1) The point of what follows is twofold. Firstly, a few old ideas. Along with professional and scientific values, ideological and moral values explain a great deal of our work as epidemiologists. Such values ought to be made explicit more often. It is hard or impossible to analyse the contributions of epidemiology without taking into account professional, scientific, ideological, and moral values of individual epidemiologists—as well as values and interests of the institutions, social organisations, governments and companies that nurtured the work. We often overlook that methods have their “own”—socially embedded—history, just as diseases, epidemiological evidence, or the “invisible colleges” and schools of epidemiology. The second reason comes later (point 18 below). A general assessment of the impact of Susser’s work is not a purpose of this commentary.
(2) Susser begins the memoir when he was about 18 years old.1,2 It is a reasonable choice, but I would have liked to read more about his childhood, mother, father. This feeling that childhood determines so much what we later are, do... profession and everything else. If we are to understand a professional career, what is it that it is essential for us to know, of the child? 3,4 We must respect that he chose not to tell us, this time.1,2
(3) Similarly with “his” Zena; perhaps his stronger professional “determinant”. I like it, how much admiration he shows he felt for her, back in 1930s (“I was happy to meet Zena… remarkably in the culture of young schoolboys… we happily drove to Cape Town for the summer vacation…”).1 Perhaps he owes—her, us, himself—an entire piece on Zena.
(4) I think of other couples I know of who often …