Campus & Community

Former SPH dean dies at 91

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Snyder played key expansion role

Former Dean of the School of Public Health John C. Snyder died Tuesday, Feb. 19, in Peterborough, N.H. He was 91.

Snyder played a major role in developing and expanding the School into the recognized public health institution it is today. He served as dean from 1954 to 1971 and in that time presided over the construction of Buildings One and Two, and the Kresge Building. He also secured housing for foreign students by making the Shattuck International House a part of the School.

Snyder also contributed greatly to the intellectual development of the School, and the main auditorium is named in his honor. During his tenure he helped to double the size of the faculty, more than triple the number of tenured faculty, and expand endowed professorships from one to one dozen. He created the Department of Behavioral Sciences, now known as the Department of Health and Social Behavior; the Department of Demography and Ecology, now the Department of Population and International Health; and the University-wide Center for Population Studies, now the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.

Snyder joined the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation after graduating from Harvard Medical School, and assisted renowned bacteriologist Hans Zinsser in his research on typhus. During World War II he helped contain the spread of typhus to U.S. soldiers and helped curb the typhus epidemic during the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. He came to the School of Public Health in 1946 to direct the new Department of Public Health Bacteriology and pursue research in typhus, international health, and population control.

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