Epic Measures

Epic Measures is the true story of a 20-year, 500-scientist, $100-million moonshot attempt to track and quantify every illness, injury, and death for everyone on Earth: the biggest of Big Data ever.


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The story

  1. Called the Global Burden of Disease study, the monumental effort to understand how we live and how we die has at its center the brilliant, controversial economist and physician Christopher Murray, who has developed an entirely new way of discovering and comparing the worldwide toll of both the things that kill us and those that diminish the quality of our lives. His goal: to enable all of us to live longer and better lives.


  1. The story of Murray’s lifelong determination to understand how we live and die encompasses wars and famines, presidents and activists, billionaires and billions of people worldwide living in poverty. It shows the human side of scientific revolutions—and of revolutionary scientists: their breakthroughs and setbacks, their genius and their flaws, their champions and their critics, as they strive to bring the news of their findings to the world.


  1. This transformational effort is far from over, but the story of its genesis and impact is already an epic tale.


The science

  1. This work has already transformed health systems from Mexico to Australia (whenever you read that the U.S. health system is ranked 37th in the world, that famous figure came from this data), and it has also shown Bill Gates a way to invest his fortune for global good.


  1. Now it may help people everywhere—all 7 billion of us—know what really hurts us and what will best improve our health.


Articles, reviews, and interviews

  1. “Turning to Big, Big Data to See What Ails the World”The New York Times covers Epic Measures

  2. “One Doctor’s Quest to Save the World With Data”Wired covers Epic Measures

  3. “The Brilliant Doctor Behind My Favorite Obscure Website”Bill Gates on Epic Measures

  4. “Missoula author’s book details big data initiative on global health”The Missoulian covers Epic Measures

  5. “The one book—and seven billion stories—you need to read about global health”Joy Portella on Epic Measures

  6. “Chasing the White Whale of Big Science”—my interview with The Los Angeles Review of Books

  7. “Big Data Shows How We Live And Die”—my interview with The Write Question public radio show

  8. “A Global Health Revolution You Can See on Your Computer”—my interview on the Tim Danehey Show

  9. “Effort to Chart Global Deaths Draws Backlash”—my interview with the Tiny Spark radio show and podcast

  10. “It Turns Out We Really Didn't Know What People Are Dying From”—NPR News covers Epic Measures

  11. My appearance—with a snake!—on SciShow Talk Show

  12. “A study about dying that might save your life”—CNN covers Epic Measures

  13. Epic Measures book club—Carrboro High School interviews Chris Murray after reading Epic Measures

  14. “Tracking Global Causes of Death”—my interview with the public radio show Worldview

  15. “The Three Best Digital Health Books of 2015”—Techonomy covers Epic Measures

  16. “The Quest to Synthesize All of the World’s Death and Disease”—review of Epic Measures in PsycCRITIQUES

  17. “One Doctor. Seven Billion Patients.”—review of Epic Measures in the Development Policy Blog


More info

  1. “Counting Everything When Everything Counts”—the introduction to Epic Measures

  2. “The New Book of Life”—my article in Discover about Christopher Murray and the Global Burden study

  3. “Mystery Killers”—my piece in The Atlantic about how hard it is to solve the mystery of why we die

  4. “Fatal Accidents as a Global Health Crisis”—my piece in The New York Times about the huge death toll from injuries and where and how progress is being made

  5. “El drama oculto de los accidentes mortales”—a version of the fatal injuries piece for Spain’s El País

  6. “When ‘Moneyball’ Meets Medicine”—my piece in The New York Times about how new statistical analyses have moved from sports to matters of life and death

  7. “Lives Grow Longer, and Health Care’s Challenges Change”—my latest piece in The New York Times

  8. “How can we begin to quantify our real state of health?”—my take (with visualization links!) for Aeon


Make contact

Please contact me about the book, including how to arrange an interview or set up an event.


Order today

Epic Measures is available from Amazon, Apple iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, BooksAMillion, Google Play, HarperCollins, and wherever books are sold.

Video trailer: Epic Measures in 60 Seconds

Praise for Epic Measures


Barnes & Noble Editor’s Recommendation

iBooks 20 Best Books of April

Amazon #1 Best Seller in Medicine


Epic Measures is a fantastic read.”

—Bill Gates


“Remarkably entertaining.… A giant compilation of ‘who knew?’”

—Tina Rosenberg, The New York Times


“Jeremy Smith’s engaging story of a man obsessed with the numbers, and the mortal dramas they tell, reads like a novel and is better than any textbook or survey of this planet’s health.”

—Paul Farmer, cofounder of Partners In Health and cochair of the department of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School


“Once you realize that the work you’re doing could save millions of lives, it’s hard not to go a little crazy. Epic Measures is a story of people who believed, despite the entire world disagreeing, that what needed to be done could be done. It’s exciting, well-crafted, and inspirational. Like The Social Network but actually important. Saving a million lives isn’t cool. Y’know what’s cool? Saving a billion lives.”

—Hank Green, cocreator and cohost of Crash Course and SciShow


“Jeremy Smith tells an inspiring story of how a simple idea, conceived logically and pursued with grit, can greatly improve the human condition.”

—Edward O. Wilson, University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University


“This book is a crash course in global health mixed with a thriller and a biography. And my goodness, what a made-for-Hollywood character at its core—a brilliant but bristly scientist out to revolutionize the way we conceive healthcare. I was constantly surprised to learn what really ails us as a human race.”

—A. J. Jacobs, author of Drop Dead Healthy and The Year of Living Biblically


“Reading Epic Measures is…an intense intellectual treat, the sense of participating in something important, and the thrill of a riveting adventure.”

—Gary King, director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Harvard University


“Bold, brash, and brilliant…. In Epic Measures, Jeremy Smith tells a compelling story of the man who led a group of like-minded collaborators, inspired a legion of followers, irritated the establishment, and changed the way the world thinks about health and disease.”

—Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation


“The Global Burden of Disease Study is not only an epic dataset, but also an epic human story…. Through fine reporting and graceful writing, Jeremy Smith reveals the high-stakes story behind the numbers that are transforming global health."

—Michelle Nijhuis, co-editor of The Science Writers’ Handbook


“A fascinating account of a charismatic visionary.”

Kirkus Reviews


“An inspirational tale for everyone.”

Publishers Weekly


“The subtitle of this book [‘One Doctor. Seven Billion Patients.’] does not lie. Editor’s recommendation.”

Barnes & Noble


“A must read.”

—Apple iBooks 20 Best Books of April


“An illuminating look at global health.… The people and real-life drama behind the numbers come alive.”

—Kate Whittle, Missoula Independent


“A page-turner that could radically change the way you view health.”

—Joy Portella, Minerva Strategies


“A thumping narrative about trends shaping the future.”

—Aaron Shulman, The Los Angeles Review of Books


"We've all heard about the rise of Big Data and how it will have big effects. Well, this is the ultimate Big Data project and it could indeed save lives and money—big time!"

—Fareed Zakaria, CNN


“An incredible book. An incredible read. Truthfully, I cannot think of a greater book to read to get you on a path of public health awareness and personal health improvement. It’s fascinating.”

—Tim Danehey, Tim Danehey Show


“In public health it is said that what is measured gets done. But what if the measurements were all wrong? This book should be mandatory reading. While others on the beach may have been reading mysteries, I was turning the pages of a true thriller.”

—Richard E. Besser, M.D., chief health and medical editor, ABC News

SciShow Talk Show discusses Epic Measures

CNN discusses Epic Measures

Carrboro High School Interviews Chris Murray

Bill Gates covers Chris Murray and healthdata.org