The academic examination of epidemiology began in 1922 as an elective course offered by the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health. In the 1950s, epidemiology became a distinct graduate and research program first under the brief guidance of Franklin Top, and then more earnestly at the hand of Leonard Schuman. In 1958, the university became the first school in the country to officially declare epidemiology to be a graduate school discipline and eligible for a PhD degree.

The Seven Countries Study

Also in 1958, the school’s most widely known “first” began: a unique population comparison of diet, risk factors, and rates of heart attack and stroke. Called the Seven Countries Study, it put its chief investigator, Ancel Keys, on the cover of Time magazine in 1961.

The Seven Countries Study changed the face of public health and how we think about diet, exercise and disease. It added to the school’s reputation as a leader in the study of cardiovascular disease and paved the way for the popularization of the Mediterranean Diet as one of the healthiest ways to eat. Read a journal about the study by Henry Blackburn (PDF).

Henry Blackburn Shares the Origins of Academic Epidemiology at Minnesota