University of Minnesota

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

A major academic center involved in the origins of formal CVD epidemiology was the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Bradford Hill, Donald Reid, and Geoffrey Rose were its pioneers. Jeremy Morris’s new MRC Social Medicine Unit, Archie Cochrane’s MRC Pneumoconiosis Unit, and Walter Holland at St. Thomas’s Hospital were major UK colleagues engaged in parallel CVD pursuits.

The London School opened in 1899, was “formed” in 1907, received its Royal Charter in 1924, and was officially constituted in its present form and location at Keppel and Gower Streets in 1929. Prof. Major Greenwood was its first professor of epidemiology and statistics from 1928 and a central figure of the school’s evolution, establishing Austin Bradford Hill as his successor. Much of the modern tone of the school derives from Hill’s scholarship, involving survey and trial design, criteria for causal inference, and a rigorous statistical training program.

Most relevant to the history of CVD epidemiology were the follow-ons from Greenwood and Hill, which we summarize with a simple listing of selected London School contributions:

  • the classic paper of Bradford Hill and Richard Doll on the British Doctors’ Study (smoking, lung cancer, and coronary disease) from the MRC Statistical Unit.
  • the classic studies on pathology and on the occupational and social epidemiology of coronary disease by Jeremy Morris (who did his work from the MRC Social Medicine Unit that he brought only later to the London School),
  • the founding of popular international short courses on epidemiology by Donald Reid and Geoffrey Rose and on statistics by Peter Armitage,
  • the collaboration of the London School and the U. of Minnesota on CVD Survey Methods and the Minnesota Code for Electrocardiograms (Rose and Blackburn),
  • the WHO multiple risk factor trial in industry, chaired by Geoffrey Rose,
  • the evolution of a population strategy of CVD prevention guided by Rose and Marmot of InterSalt and InterMap, and international studies of nutrition and hypertension led by Jerry Stamler.

(Henry Blackburn)


For a chronology of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, please click here.