Jerome Cornfield was one of the leading biostatisticians of the mid-20th century and made major contributions to the methods and practice of statistics in many areas. One of Cornfield's major areas of interest was clinical trials. He considered and wrote about many of the issues that continue to concern clinical trialists today. His work ranged from philosophical treatises about the approaches to inference from clinical trials, all the way to assessing the details of the conduct of a particular trial to determine how to best interpret the results. It is interesting to see how many of today's ‘hot topics’ in clinical trials methodology were addressed in Cornfield's works in the 1960s and 1970s. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.