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Institute of Evolutionary Medicine (IEM)

Anthropometrics & Historical Epidemiology ☛ PD Kaspar Staub

Main Research Topics

This research group has two main research areas:

  • Anthropometry: The analysis of the regional/temporal variability in human body height, body shape, excess weight, and size at birth during the last 200 years.
  • Historical Epidemiology: The analysis of historical morbidity and mortality data from archives using modern epidemiological methods.

Presentation of the Group

Monitoring temporal changes and the variability of body size and shape among a given populations and its subgroups may provide insight into health status in general and help to identify groups at risk in particular. We are an interdisciplinary group (epidemiologists, economic historians, ecologists, biostatisticians) and analyse various modern and historical data sets (monitoring/survey data as well as self-produced data) with quantitative methods (a proven expertise of this group). We add the historical and evolutionary perspective to modern data in order to better understand ongoing developments. By assessing the total body shape via 3D Full Body Scans we focus on longitudinal changes of an individual’s body shape as a whole. In the case of Historical Epidemiology (historical morbidity and mortality data), we try to learn from past mistakes and success stories for modern public health. We profit from an excellent national and international network and collaborations with well-known experts.

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Key words and topics

The Spanish flu

Ongoing research on past pandemics

Please find more information about our ongoing research on past pandemics in Switzerland and their relevance in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak here.


3D ScanLab

We run a fully equipped Scan Lab including a 3D laser-based photonic full body scanner. For more information please see the Scan Lab webpage. The Scanner has also been presented at Scientifica 2017.

The Spanish flu

Infectious Historians Blog