University of Minnesota

Gunnar Biörck, MD

1916 — 1996

Gunnar Biörck was an international leader in cardiology and medicine who, for a few years in the 1950s and ‘60s directed early studies in CVD epidemiology and geographic pathology and collaborated with Paul White and Ancel Keys. In his later years he was physician to the Swedish Royal Family and a staunchly conservative member of Parliament.

Biörck was educated at the Karolinska Institute, receiving an MD in 1942. As professor of medicine in Lund from 1950-58 he led pioneer studies in the prevalence and pathology of coronary heart disease and also developed a coterie of young investigators in the field, after which time he headed internal medicine at Stockholm’s Serafimer Hospital from 1958-1980.

For many years he served on the Expert Advisory Panel of WHO and chaired the Nobel Assembly, wrote books on grand topics of modern society and the future, and over his lifetime received countless international honors.

There is no record of the reason that Gunnar Biörck became a skeptic, departed the field, ceased contact with his preventionist colleagues, and dropped the banner of CVD epidemiology and prevention after carrying it so high for several years (including his participation at its first international symposium for the World Congress of Cardiology in Washington DC in 1954)!

[Editorial comment: Epidemiology or prevention and public health activism are uncommon traits among political conservatives, and the field did early move toward policy. I do recall thinking in terms of a depressive mood when Professor Biörck once remarked to me, over cocktails, that, “A man should strive to arrive at age 60, see his grandchildren, and then depart the scene with dispatch.”

He, however, managed a full and useful life for some 30 years beyond that mark!] (HB)


Henry Blackburn