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When the first edition of A Dictionary of Epidemiology was launched in 1983,1 its principal aim was to facilitate communication among health professionals. The field was relatively young and comprised complex interdisciplinary relations ranging from the biomedical sciences to statistics and the social sciences. The International Epidemiological Association (IEA) co-sponsored the project with the aim of developing certain standards for teaching, research reports and communication of epidemiological findings to the public. This is a well-known history: John M Last, the emeritus professor of epidemiology and community medicine from the University of Ottawa, Canada, was appointed as the editor of A Dictionary…, and kept ahead of the task during the subsequent decades. The original slim pocket book grew substantially with each re-edit,2–4 keeping pace with the remarkable developments in the discipline.
When the fourth edition was launched in 2001, John Last told me with a smile that he would die soon, supposedly to increase the value of the signature he had just handwritten in my book. Fortunately, he did not, and his …
Competing interests: None.