Sewell Lecture

Next Lecture

We hope to see you at the 2025 Granville H. Sewell Distinguished Lecture. The date and speaker will be announced as the event draws nearer. In the meantime, feel free to browse or watch recordings of our past lectures below.

Inaugurated in 1993 by the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, the annual Granville H. Sewell Distinguished Lecture honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to environmental health sciences. The lecture series was established in memory of Dr. Granville Sewell, who directed the educational programs in environmental health sciences at Columbia for more than 20 years and was internationally recognized for his great contributions in the critical area of water supply in developing countries.
The Granville H. Sewell Distinguished Lecture brings the leading figures in Environmental Health to the Columbia community each year. Alumni often make the trip to campus to attend, providing a wonderful networking opportunity. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Learn more about Granville H. Sewell and view information from past Sewell lectures below.

About Granville H. Sewell

Sewell received his BS in Civil and Sanitary Engineering and his PhD in Developmental Economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before coming to Columbia University, he was involved in economic and environmental assessments of construction projects in Jordan, Korea, Liberia, Nigeria, Panama, Turkey, Sierra Leone, and many other countries around the world. He joined the Columbia faculty in 1967 and developed a new teaching program in environmental health sciences in the early 1970s. He taught and wrote on a variety of environmental topics, including water supply and sanitation, always emphasizing the social context for environmental problems and their remedies. Dr. Sewell died in December 1992 at the age of 59, after a long and heroic battle with lung cancer.
Dr. Sewell remained active in the department until his death. His door—at the office and at home—was always open, especially to students. Students from around the world attended his parties and dinners with great regularity and great affection for Dr. Sewell and his family.
Dr. Sewell worked tirelessly to provide students with opportunities for research and training in public health, opportunities to network with professionals in the field, and opportunities to find employment in positions that were personally fulfilling and socially important. His lectureship was created to provide an annual opportunity for students, alumni, faculty, friends, and colleagues to come together to learn, enjoy each others' company, and develop new opportunities for current and future students.

Past Lectures

  • 2024: Majid Ezzati, Professor, Global Environmental Health at Imperial College London (Cities as Unequal Opportunities for Good Health) Watch Recording
  • 2023: Allison Crimmins, Director, National Climate Assessment for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, Office of Science and Technology Policy Climate & Energy (Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States) Watch Recording
  • 2022: Peggy Shepard, Co-founder and Executive Director, WE ACT for Environmental Justice (Advancing Environmental Health and Justice To Improve Community Health) Watch Recording
  • 2021: Ellen Silbergeld, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Health and Engineering, Epidemiology, and Health Policy and Management, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Water, Water Everywhere And Not A [Safe] Drop to Drink) 
  • 2019: Thomas A. Burke, PhD, MPH, Jacob I. and Irene B. Fabrikant Professor and Chair in Health Risk and Society Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Changing Times: Rethinking the Science of Environmental Health) Watch Recording
  • 2018: Joel E. Cohen, PhD, DrPH, Head, Laboratory of Populations, Professor, Columbia University Earth Institute, and Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor, The Rockefeller University (Demographic Problems and Opportunities in Environmental Health)
  • 2017: Emily Oken, MD, MPH, Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Population, Harvard Medical School (Development Influences of Environmental and Dietary Exposures on Cardiometabolic Health)
  • 2016: Ian H. von Lindern, PhD, Executive Director, TerraGraphics International Foundation (Encephalopathy, Death or IQ: Disparity in Environmental...) Watch Recording
  • 2015: John M. Balbus, MD, MPH, Senior Advisor for Public Health to the Director of the National Insitute of Environmental Health Sciences (The Sweet Spot: Where Community Sustainability...)
  • 2014: Linda Birnbaum, PhD, DABT, ATS, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Health (When Our Environment Acts Like Medicine...)
  • 2013: Barry Popkin, W. R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor in the Department of Nutrition and director of the Nutrition Transition Research Project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Global Obesity: Current Patterns, Dynamics and Future Challenges)
  • 2012: Samuel H. Wilson, MD, Principal Investigator, DNA Repair & Nucleic Acid Enzymology Group, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health (Perspective on the Role of Genetic Toxicology in Public Health)
  • 2011: Kirk R. Smith, Professor of Global Environmental Health, University of California Berkeley (Cooking and Climate: The Unfinished Health Agenda of Incomplete Combustion)
  • 2010: Howard Frumkin, Dean University of Washington School of Public Health (Climate Change and Public Health)
  • 2009: James Hansen, Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Climate Threat to the Planet: Implications for Energy Policy and Intergenerational Justice)
  • 2008: William E. Rees, Professor of UBC School of Community and Regional Planning (Our Ecological Footprint)
  • 2007: Wallace Broecker, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (What Should we do about Fossil Fuel CO2)
  • 2005: Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University (The Ethics of What We Eat; 2005)
  • 2004: Mario Molina, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1995, MIT (Impact of Human Activities on our Atmosphere)
  • 2003: Edward O. Wilson, Pellegrino University Research Professor, Emeritus and Honorary Curator in Entomology, Harvard University (Saving the Last Life, and Why it Matters)
  • 2002: George Woodwell, Woods Hole Research Center (Global Climate Change)
  • 2001: Carol Browner, a Senior Fellow at the Aspen Institute and previously the Director of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (Environmental Protection and Public Health: Meeting the Challenge of the 21st Century)
  • 2000: J. Carl Barrett, Director of the Division of Basic Sciences, National Cancer Institute (New Approaches to the Study of Environmental Causes of Disease)
  • 1999: Thomas A. E. Platts-Mills, The University of Virginia (The Role of the Indoor Environment in the Persistent Increase in Asthma)
  • 1998: Tony McMichael (Environmental Sciences from Hazard to Habitat)
  • 1997: Story Musgrave (Remote Global Sensing)
  • 1996: Rita Colwell (Cholera)
  • 1995: Rob Socolow of Princeton University (Energy)
  • 1994: Gene Likens (Acid Rain)
  • 1993: Tara O'Toole (The Radioactive Legacy of the Cold War)