William Thomas Russell was born in Killarney, Ireland, the son of a schoolmaster, and educated in Dublin. He moved to England before the 1st world war and after a period of commercial employment, in 1915 he joined the staff of the Medical Research Committee. He worked first with John Brownlee (until 1927) mainly at the National Institute for Medical Research, and later with Major Greenwood (until 1943) at LSHTM. He lectured in the introductory statistics course but left LSHTM in 1943 on appointment as statistician in the newly formed Institute of Social Medicine in Oxford under John Ryle. He worked there until his death in 1953. His obituary (Sutherland 1954) records that he wrote many sound papers in the field of vital statistics, including a study on the epidemiology of diphtheria conducted in England from 1901 to 1940, the effects of fog and cold on mortality from respiratory disease, geographical and secular patterns of tuberculosis, the sex-ratio at birth, and appendicitis. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society in 1930 and in 1943 was awarded a DSc by the University of London for work on epidemiology and demography. This was based on 25 publications which are listed below. His examiners were Sir William Wilson Jameson (1885-1962 (first professor of public health and then Dean at LSHTM) and James Macalister Mackintosh (1891-1966, professor of public health in Glasgow, then at LSHTM where he was also Dean), and Leon Isserlis (Farewell et al. 2006). Sutherland (1954) recalls that Russell “… always preferred a direct approach and a simple table to more refined statistical techniques, which he often felt to be unnecessary sophistication.”
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Farewell V, Johnson T, Armitage P (2006). “A memorandum on the present position and prospects of medical statistics and epidemiology” by Major Greenwood. Statistics in Medicine 25:2161-2177.
Sutherland I (1954). Obituary of William Thomas Russell. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 1954:117:121.
Twenty-five publications (in order of presentation) submitted by William Thomas Russell for his Doctorate in Science, 1943
Russell WT. The Epidemiology of Diphtheria during the last forty years. Medical Research Council Special Report Series No 247, HMSO, 1943.
Russell WT. The influence of fog on mortality from respiratory diseases. Lancet, 16 August 1924, 335-339.
Russell WT. The relative influence of fog and low temperature on the mortality from respiratory disease. Lancet, 27 Nov 1926, 1128-1130.
Young M, Russell WT. Some observations on the recorded mortality from diabetes in recent years in England and Wales as a whole and principal divisions, including London, with special reference to the introduction of insulin. Quarterly Journal of Medicine 1926:20:87-100.
Young M, Russell WT. A study of the longevity of males at different periods in the history of Great Britain and Ireland from the sixteenth century, based on data from the “Dictionary of National Biography” and “Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage”. Journal of Hygiene 1926:XXV:256-272.
Young M, Russell WT. Sexual differentiation in susceptibility to and mortality from whooping-cough in children under five years. British Journal of Children’s Diseases 1927:24:165.
Young M, Russell WT. An investigation into the statistics of cancer in different trades and professions. Medical Research Council Special Report Series, No. 99, HMSO, 1926.
Russell WT. A study of Irish fertility between 1870 and 1911. Metron 1928:VII:101.
Russell WT. Dependency, orphanhood and fertility in England and Wales in 1921. Sonderabdruck aus: Archiv für Soziale Hygiene und Demographie 1929:4:75.
Goodall EW, Greenwood M, Russell WT. Scarlet fever, diphtheria and enteric fever 1895-1914: a clinical statistical study. Medical Research Council Special Report Series, No. 137, HMSO, 1929.
Dunkin GW, Hartley P, Lewis-Faning E, Russell WT. A comparative biometric study of albino and coloured guinea-pigs from the point of view of their suitability for experimental use. Journal of Hygiene 1930:XXX:311-330.
Russell WT. A review of the cancer statistics in England and Wales and in Scotland between 1891 and 1927. Journal of Hygiene 1931:XXXI:406-413.
Russell WT. Mortality from cancer according to site in the counties of Scotland 1923-8. Journal of Hygiene 1931:XXXI:563-569.
Russell WT. The statistics of erysipelas in England and Wales. Journal of Hygiene 1933:XXXIII:421-434.
Russell WT, Salmon G. Pulmonary tuberculosis in Wales between 1911 and 1931. Journal of Hygiene 1934:XXXIV:380-406.
Russell WT. Statistical analysis of the results of adult serum in the prevention and attenuation of measles. London County Council Measles Report, July 1933, page 77.
Russell WT. Statistical study of the sex ratio at birth. Journal of Hygiene 1936:XXXVI:381-401.
Gunn W, Russell WT. Immune measles sera in the control of measles outbreaks in the Council’s hospitals, institutions and residential schools, during the measles epidemic 1st November 1933 to 31st August 1934. London County Council Measles Report, January 1936, page 24.
Greenwood M, Russell WT. Bright’s disease, nephritis and arterio-sclerosis: a contribution to the history of medical statistics. Biometrika 1938:XXIX:249-276.
Gunn W, Russell WT. A review of the measles epidemic 1935-37 Including reference to treatment and the preparation and use of immune measles sera. London County Council Measles Report 1938, page 19.
Cheeseman EA, Martin WJ, Russell WT. Disease and environment. Biometrika 1939:XXX:341-362.
Cheeseman EA, Martin WJ, Russell WT. Diphtheria: a suggested explanation of the relative change in age incidence. Journal of Hygiene 1939:XXXIX:181-202.
Young M, Russell WT. Appendicitis. Medical Research Council Special Report Series, No. 233, 1939.
Greenwood M, Martin WJ, Russell WT. Deaths by violence 1837-1937 (with Discussion). Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 1941:CIV(II):146-171.
Aslett EA, D’Arcy Hart P, Martin WJ, Russell WT. Physical type in pneumoconiosis. Journal of Hygiene 1941:XLI:169-179.
Other publications not included in his thesis
Russell WT. The relationship between rainfall and temperature as shown by the correlation coefficient. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 48:225.
Russell WT, Sheehan LM. The anthropometry of the population of a London borough (Hornsey). Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 1942:LXXII:19-22.
Russell WT, WJ Martin. Dietetics of pregnancy. British Medical Journal 1943:1:204 and 1943:1:301 (letters).
Russell WT, Whitwell GPB, Ryle JA. Studies in occupational morbidity (I). British Journal of Industrial Medicine 1947:4:56-61.
Ryle LA, Russell WT. Social and occupational factors in the aetiology of skin cancer. British Medical Journal 1947:1:873-877.
Ryle JA, Russell WT. The natural history of coronary disease: a clinical and epidemiological study.British Heart Journal 1949:11:370-389.
Russell WT, Sutherland I. Mortality amongst babies from injuries at birth. British Journal of Social Medicine 1949:3:85-94.
Moloney GE, Russell WT, Wilson DC. Appendicitis: a report on its social pathology and recent surgical experience. British Journal of Surgery 1950:38:52-64.