skip to primary navigation skip to content

Department of Geography


Professor Andrew D Cliff, BA MA PhD DSc FSS FBA, Academia Europaea, C. Geog

Director of Research, Emeritus Professor and Fellow of Christ’s College

Geographer working on statistical and mathematical modelling of spatial processes, and applications to problems in spatial diffusion and demography. The geographical spread of human diseases has been a special focus.



  • 1964-1966: Northwestern University
  • 1966-1971: Bristol University
  • 1972-present: Department of Geography, University of Cambridge.


  • BA King’s College London.
  • MA Northwestern University.
  • PhD University of Bristol.
  • DSc University of Bristol.


  • Awarded Victoria Medal by Royal Geographical Society



Andrew Cliff’s earliest research was on spatial statistics. This work, with J.K.Ord, examines spatial processes for marked and unmarked point patterns, and appears in Spatial Autocorrelation (1973) and Spatial Processes (1981).

His current research focuses on applications of spatial diffusion models to the spread of epidemic diseases. Predicting the spatial spread of childhood diseases such as measles with a view to devising control strategies has been a central theme. Isolated island communities such as Iceland and the Pacific island groups have been important test-beds for trying out the forecasting models.

The work has identified the geographical factors which cause diseases to be endemic or epidemic in different locations, showing that disease levels are influenced by population density, vaccination intensity and degree of population flux. In particular, once the population size of an area falls below certain threshold densities which vary over time and space, the disease concerned is eventually extinguished, and it can only recur by re-introduction from other areas where the disease is permanently present. Thus the generalized persistence of disease implies geographical transmission between regions.

These ideas are developed in two recent publications (with M.R. Smallman-Raynor), Atlas of Epidemic Britain (OUP, 2012) and Infectious Disease Control (OUP, 2013). New research projects are examining ways of controlling the spread of communicable diseases in refugee settings and other displaced populations. The work is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and initial results are appearing in Atlas of Refugees, Displaced Populations and Communicable Disease (with M.R. Smallman-Raynor and H.J. Hooper, OUP, 2016).

Spatial analysis with GIS:

GIS with close coupled models to study emerging and re-emerging virus diseases and their impacts on populations.

Spatial processes in epidemiology, and demography:

Modelling temporal and spatial patterns of disease from global to local geographical scales in island settings; the impact of war on the spread of disease; the historical and future geography of emerging and re-emerging diseases; communicable disease spread in displaced populations.


Selected publications

  • A.D. Cliff and M.R. Smallman-Raynor (2018). ‘Atlas of Refugees, Displaced Populations and Communicable Disease. Decoding Global Geographical Patterns and Processes since 1901.’ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 365 pp.
  • A.D. Cliff and M.R. Smallman-Raynor. (2013A). ‘Infectious Disease Control: a Geographical Analysis from Medieval Quarantine to Global Eradication.’ Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • M.R. Smallman-Raynor and A.D. Cliff. (2013B). Abrupt transition to heightened poliomyelitis epidemicity in England and Wales, 1947–57, associated with a profound shift in the geographical rate of disease propagation. Epidemiology and Infection, doi:10.1017/S0950268813001441.
  • M.R. Smallman-Raynor and A.D. Cliff. (2012A). ‘Atlas of Epidemic Britain.’ Oxford: Oxford University Press. 202pp. Winner of the British Medical Association Book Prize in Public Health, 2013, and overall winner, 2013.
  • D.M. Weinberger, T.G. Krause, K. Mølbak, A.D. Cliff, H. Briem, C. Viboud, M. Gottfredsson. (2012B). Influenza epidemics in Iceland over 9 decades: changes in timing and synchrony with the United States and Europe. American Journal of Epidemiology, 176, pp. 649–55; doi: 10.1093/aje/kws140.
  • A.D. Cliff, M.R. Smallman-Raynor and J.K. Ord. (2010). Common acute childhood infections and appendicitis: an historical study of statistical association in 27 English public boarding schools, 1930–1934. Epidemiology and Infection, 138, pp. 1155–1165; doi: 10.1017.
  • A.D. Cliff, M.R. Smallman-Raynor, P. Haggett, D.F. Stroup and S.B. Thacker. (2009). ‘Emerging Infectious Diseases: a Geographical Analysis.’ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 763 pp.
  • M.R. Smallman-Raynor and A.D. Cliff. (2008A). ‘The geographical spread of avian influenza A (H5N1): panzootic transmission (December 2003–May 2006), pandemic potential and implications’. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 98, pp. 553-82.
  • A.D. Cliff, P. Haggett and M.R. Smallman-Raynor. (2008B). ‘The changing shape of island epidemics: historical trends in Icelandic infectious disease waves, 1902–1988. Journal of Historical Geography, doi:10.1016/j.jhg.2008.11.001.
  • M.R. Smallman-Raynor, A.D. Cliff, B. Trevelyan, C. Nettleton and S. Sneddon. (2006). ‘Poliomyelitis. A World Geography: Emergence to Eradication.’ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 734pp.
  • M.R. Smallman-Raynor and A.D. Cliff. (2004A). ‘War Epidemics: A Geography of Infectious Diseases in Military Conflict and Civil Strife, 1850-2000’. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 800pp.
  • A.D. Cliff, P. Haggett and M.R. Smallman-Raynor. (2004B). ‘World Atlas of Epidemic Diseases’, London: Arnold, 212pp.
  • D. Low-Beer, A.D. Cliff and M.R. Smallman-Raynor. (2004C). Disease and death during the South African War: changing disease patterns from soldiers to refugees. Social History of Medicine, 17, pp. 223-45.
  • Smallman-Raynor, M.R and Cliff, A.D. (2003) ‘The geographical spread of cholera in the Crimean War: epidemic transmission in the camp systems of the British Army of the East, 1854-5’ (with M.R. Smallman-Raynor). Journal of Historical Geography, 30, pp. 32-69.
  • Smallman-Raynor, M.R and Cliff, A.D. (2003). Wartime evacuation and the spread of infectious diseases: epidemiological consequences of the dispersal of children from London during World War II. Journal of Historical Geography, 29, pp. 396-421.
  • Smallman-Raynor, M.R., Johnson, N.P.A.S. and Cliff, A.D. (2002) ‘The spatial anatomy of an epidemic: influenza in London and the county boroughs of England and Wales, 1918-19’ Transactions & Papers, Institute of British Geographers, NS27, pp. 452-70.
  • Smallman-Raynor, M.R and Cliff, A.D. (2002) ‘The geographical transmission of smallpox in the Franco-Prussian War: Prisoner of War (POW) camps and their impact upon epidemic diffusion processes in the civil settlement system of Prussia, 1870-71’ (with M.R. Smallman-Raynor). Medical History, 46, pp.241-64.
  • Smallman-Raynor, M.R and Cliff, A.D. (2002) ‘Epidemiological spaces: the use of multidimensional scaling to identify cholera diffusion processes in the wake of the Philippines Insurrection, 1899-1902’ (with M.R. Smallman-Raynor). Transactions & Papers, Institute of British Geographers, NS26, pp. 288-305.
  • Cliff, A.D., Haggett, P. and Smallman-Raynor, M.R.. (2000) Island Epidemics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 563pp.
  • Smallman-Raynor, M.R and Cliff, A.D. (1999) ‘The spatial dynamics of epidemics in war and peace: Cuba and the insurrection against Spain, 1895-98.’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 24: 331-52.
  • Smallman-Raynor, M.R., Cliff, A.D., Haggett, P., Stroup, D.F.and Williamson, G.D. (1999) ‘The US National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS): spatial and temporal patterns in final amendments to provisional disease counts: the examples of hepatitis A and B, 1980-92.‘ Journal of Public Health Management and Practice 5: 68-83.
  • Cliff, A.D. and Haggett, P. (1998) ‘On complex geographical space: computing frameworks for spatial diffusion processes.’ in: P.A. Longley, S.M. Brooks, R. McDonnell and B. Macmillan (eds) Geocomputation: a primer. Chichester: Wiley, 231-256.
  • Cliff, A.D., Haggett, P. and Smallman-Raynor (1998) Deciphering global epidemics: analytical approaches to the disease records of world cities, 1888-1912. Cambridge: Cambridge Univesity Press, 471pp.
  • Cliff, A.D., Haggett, P. and Smallman-Raynor, M. (1998) ‘Detecting space-time patterns in geocoded disease data: cholera in London, 1854 and measles in the United States, 1962-65.’ in L. Gierl et al. (eds) GEOMED ’97: proceedings of the international workshop on geomedical systems. Stuttgart; Leipzig: Teubner Verlag, 13-42.
  • Cliff, A.D. and Smallman-Raynor, M. (1998) ‘The Philippines insurrection and the 1904-04 cholera epidemic: part 1 – epidemiological diffusion processes in war.’ Journal of Historical Geography 24: 69-89.