University of Minnesota

Edwin Boyle, Jr., MD

1923 — 1978

Ed Boyle was an early phenomenon in CVD epidemiology, serving at the new National Heart Institute as clinical investigator and afterward using his personal skills to develop and fund the pioneering Charleston Heart Study.

Boyle was educated at the University of North Carolina in the Navy V-12 Program and sent to Jefferson Medical School where he graduated in 1947 and did post-doctoral work in Philadelphia and Durham and Charlottesville. In the latter locale and at the Heart Institute with Anfinsen he worked in lipid chemistry, on clearing factor (lipase), and on the mechanics of ultracentrifugation of lipoprotein fractions. He was early to study the role of HDL in populations.

His colleagues remarked on Boyle’s curiosity, analytical skills, and chronic inability to write up his researches in a timely fashion. After joining the faculty at the University of South Carolina, Boyle did lipid analyses for Curtis Hames’s Evans County Study and Hames provided forms and advice for beginning the Charleston Heart Study. On the side, Boyle developed a thriving practice in lipid assays and advice on risk, and made a living in real estate ventures.

Boyle gathered vital statistics for 1955-58 in Charleston County, and aided by a young USPHS officer, Milt Nichaman, and Herb Sauer of NIH, provided the data to support an application to NIH in 1958 for a study called: “Cardiovascular Disease in Ethnic Groups in South Carolina.” The main aims were to explore racial differences and the influence of lipids and hemostatic factors on coronary risk. Bernie Greenberg at UNC pushed them toward the community and a population base for their study and a stratified sample was obtained. They used photovoltaic skin reflectance to characterize the population, resulting in accusations of “racism, not science!”

Nichaman then directed the pilot work and moved the study forward in early 1960. Boyle happily returned to his main interests in estrogen and clearing factor, and eventually moved to the Miami Heart Institute as research director, where he quickly moved the institute forward in research and a building program. He made other contributions on the Policy Board of the Coronary Drug Project, in research on aspirin and coronary disease and on aging. This included some controversial and poorly controlled studies of hyperbaric oxygen and “rejuvenation” in stroke patients, which convinced his chief donor, WL McKnight, CEO of the 3M Companies, to support his institute. He later dabbled in parapsychology and took care of famous patients, and died of coronary disease in 1978.

Thereafter the Charleston Heart Project was directed by Julian Keil and Peter Gazes until it closed in 1993, after exploring cognitive, sexual, and emotional function as well as CVD. (HB)


Keil, J.E. 1993. His clock had no hands. Charleston: Medical University Press.

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