The Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health is the first such Center established in a School of Public Health that brings together academic historians, public health practitioners, and educators in a unique effort to establish history as an integral part of all health policy and public health analyses. It is a joint effort of the Department of Sociomedical Science in the Mailman School of Public Health and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ History Department.

The Center is primarily focused on modern historical investigations into ideas, and issues that shape contemporary health practice. It is composed of historians and ethicists drawn from the School of Public Health and the Department of History. 

The Center is actively involved in both research and training. It trains MPH and PhD students in collaboration with the History Department. Among the major research efforts underway at the Center are studies of the politics of health and scientific expertise both domestically and in global health history, occupational and environmental health, histories of pandemics focused both in New York City and globally; health activism; and lived risks to health and challenges of care among aging populations, marginalized and minority populations.  

The Center has a major website development project funded by the NSF. Located at, the site presently provides over 30 million pages of corporate documents on a vast array of primary documents – memos, letters, reports – from polluting industries. 

Our students, alumni, and faculty bridge the assumed silos between first-rate, scholarly research and policy, and interventions. They are passionately interested in contributing to historical research and scholarship in innovative ways, and they are also deeply interested in situating and shaping policy debates around health and environmental issues; and shaping public ideas and understanding concerning the historical and current roots of unequal access to health, persistent social marginality, and asymmetries of power in public health.