History

The Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University, one of the oldest and most distinguished departments of epidemiology in the world, traces its history back to a generous endowment from the De Lamar estate. Joseph Raphael De Lamar, a Dutch seaman, gold and silver mine owner, financier, and speculator in the western United States and Canada, left $5 million to Columbia "to provide for the study and teaching of the origin and cause of human disease and the prevention thereof, and for the study and teaching of dietetics and of the effect of different food and diet." We continue to build from those early origins nearly a century ago:

1918: Joseph Raphael De Lamar bequeaths $5 million to Columbia University for the study and teaching of the causes and prevention of human disease

1921: The DeLamar Institute of Public Health opens its doors at Columbia, offering a Master of Science in Public Health degree

1922: Haven Emerson, the grand-nephew of Ralph Waldo Emerson and co-founder of the American Epidemiological Society, serves as the first director of the Institute of Public Health

1940: Harry Stoll Mustard becomes the Institute of Public Health’s second director; Ernest Stebbins becomes first full Professor of Epidemiology at the Institute and later Dean of the John Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health

1945: The Trustees of Columbia University rename the “Institute of Public Health” the “School of Public Health”

1953: Epidemiology becomes a Division within the School of Public Health; E. Gurney Clark joins the faculty from John Hopkins University and is appointed its first Head of the Division of Epidemiology

1966: Mervyn Susser joins the faculty from Manchester University and is appointed Head of the Division of Epidemiology

1983: Jennifer Kelsey joins the faculty from Yale University to become Head of the Division of Epidemiology

1995: Geoff Howe joins the faculty from the University of Toronto and is appointed Head of the Division of Epidemiology

1999: Ezra Susser becomes Head of the Division of Epidemiology

2001: The Division of Epidemiology becomes the Department of Epidemiology with Ezra Susser as its first Department Chair

2010: Sandro Galea joins the faculty from the University of Michigan to become Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and later Dean of the Boston University School of Public Health

2017: Charles Branas joins the faculty from the University of Pennsylvania as the current Chair of the Department of Epidemiology

Further reading:

Susser M. The Columbia University School of Public Health 75th Anniversary Issue – Introduction. American Journal of Epidemiology 1998; 147(3): 197-200.