Harvard Public Health Review Winter 2007
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Leaders worth folowing: HSPH celebrates distinguished faculty and alumni
On March 17, 2007, James Whittenberger, a pioneer in environmental health who chaired the Department of Physiology at HSPH from 1948 to 1980, passed away at age 93. Whittenberger’s foresight led to the founding, in 1958, of what would later become the Harvard National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Center for Environmental Health. In the 1960s and ’70s, he served on the President’s Task Force on Air Pollution and joined panels on environmental pollution and chemicals and health as part of the President’s Science Advisory Committee.

Trained as a physician, Whittenberger studied respiratory mechanics and artificial ventilation for patients with polio. In 1946 he came to HSPH to work with Cecil Drinker and his brother, Philip, a co-developer of the iron lung. Later, Whittenberger would examine pollution’s effects on respiratory physiology, incorporating toxicology and epidemiology into HSPH’s Department of Physiology. Named the James Stevens Simmons Professor of Public Health, he was also associate dean for academic affairs (1966–1972) and associate dean of the faculty (1972–1978).

After retiring in 1980, Whittenberger joined the University of California, holding various posts at the Southern Occupational Health Center at UC-Irvine; the Department of Community and Environmental Medicine, College of Medicine, UC-Irvine; and the Division of Environmental Sciences, School of Public Health, UCLA.

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