Congratulations to Alex Vespignani for receiving the 2018 John Graunt Award during the New Frontiers symposium, which took place place in Nijmegen, The Netherlands on November 1st. Every two years the Radboud Institute for Health Sciences honors a scientist for his / her extraordinary achievements in one of the population sciences with the John Graunt Award.
In the seventeenth century, the influential Londoner John Graunt developed early human statistical and census methods that later provided a framework for modern demography. He produced the first life table, giving probabilities of survival to each age. Many consider Graunt as the first epidemiologist, since his famous book 'Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality' was concerned mostly with public health statistics. This book used analysis of the mortality rolls in early modern London, as the London officials attempted to create a system to warn of the onset and spread of bubonic plaque in the city. Though the system was never truly created, Graunt's work in studying the rolls resulted in the first statistically based estimation of the population of London. John Graunt’s book led him to the Royal Society, where he presented his work and was subsequently elected a fellow with the endorsement of the King. He was later chosen as a member of the council of the Society.
The John Graunt Award was designed and created as a small bronze statue by mrs. Lia Krol (Atelier Mariaheim). She chose to characterize John Graunt, and consequently also the award recipients, with an abacus, because counting can be considered as the foundation of all population sciences. The logo of the Radboud University is incorporated in the statue to illustrate the origin of the award: the Radboud Institute for Health Sciences, one of the 14 research institutes of Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.