Introduction
for the Living Legacies series of the Columbia 250 celebration


Few events could better illustrate early twentieth-century developments at Columbia than the founding of the School of Public Health. Formally established only in 1922, this school was the product of both Columbia’s early history and the new needs of New York City at that time. It would not have come about were it not for the professional resources of the renowned College of Physicians and Surgeons (dating back to 1767), and if Columbia had not already been well poised, by its long-standing commitment to serve as “Columbia University in the City of New York,” to fill the emerging needs of a bursting city.

Here to explain how this phase in Columbia’s history arose from the confluence of increasing public needs with the services of a major medical center in an urban setting is David Rosner, director of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and professor of history and socioeconomic sciences. A graduate of the City College of New York with a PhD in the history of science from Harvard, Rosner, before coming to Columbia, served as University Distinguished Professor of History at the City University of New York. He is the author of A Once Charitable Enterprise (1982) and, with Gerald Markowitz, Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution (2002).

Turn to page 60 (A Healtheir City Today, Seeing the Light Again and The Mailman School of Public Health Reaches Out) to read about some current health initiatives involving Columbians in New York City.

People who have known Charles V. Hamilton at Columbia think of him as a fine scholar, teacher, public-spirited citizen of the University, and a true gentleman. They know him also as a black man who, in words and deeds, has fought for racial equality. But whether they think of him as a black activist depends on what one means by activism. To some people “activism” means being political in the partisan mode, highly visible and vocal—ruffling feathers and dramatizing one’s cause. That is not Charles Hamilton. However, if public scholarship and especially inspirational teaching may be counted as true leadership and a genuine public service, Hamilton may be considered an activist of the first order.

To tell his story we have Wilbur C. Rich, a former student of Hamilton’s at Tuskegee and a junior colleague at Columbia. Rich received his PhD in political science at the University of Illinois and taught there as well as at the universities of Michigan and Wisconsin before taking up his present professorship at Wellesley College. He is the author of The Politics of Urban Personnel Policy: Reformers, Politicians, and Bureaucrats (1982); Coleman Young and Detroit Politics: From Social Activist to Power Broker (1989); and Black Mayors and School Politics: The Failure of Reform in Detroit, Gary, and Newark (1996). He has also edited three books: The Politics of Minority Coalitions (1996); The Economics and Politics of Sports Facilities (2000); and, with James R. Bowers, Governing Middle-Sized Cities: Studies in Mayoral Leadership (2000). His latest work is a co-edited volume with Jeffrey R. Henig entitled Mayors in the Middle: Politics, Race, and Mayoral Control of Urban Schools (2004).

Wm. Theodore de Bary
’41CC ’53GSAS ’94HON is
John Mitchell Mason Professor and
Provost Emeritus of Columbia University.