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, an ally and friend to Nelson Mandela who was active in the anti-apartheid movement, 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
Susser M. The Columbia University School of Public Health 75th Anniversary Issue – Introduction. American Journal of Epidemiology 1998; 147(3): 197-200.