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Can Web Search Predict Cancer? Promise And Worry Of Big Data And Health
National Public Radio

“Big data” is a very 21st-century kind of buzzword, which ambiguously invokes the idea of using large sets of data to draw computer-assisted conclusions about trends, patterns and correlations, often about people and their behavior.

But if you wanted to trace the origin of using big data for health research, you’d have to go back — way back, to 17th-century England.

There, you’ll find a haberdasher by the name of John Graunt, who undertook a peculiar project: He began to study so-called bills of mortality, death records kept during the plague-riddled times, and compiled death details into tables, noting age, gender, cause, location and time.

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