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Brian MacMahon

BMacMahon Archive photoBrian MacMahon was born on August 23, 1923, in Sheffield, England. At the University of Birmingham, England, he earned the diplomas of the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons in 1946, the MB, ChB degree in 1948 and the MD degree in 1955.

Between 1946 and 1948, MacMahon served as Ship Surgeon in the English Merchant Navy. He obtained a PhD in Social Medicine at Birmingham, UK, and then a Master’s degree in Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health in 1953. After faculty appointments back in Birmingham and in Brooklyn, NY, he was appointed Head of the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health in 1958. In 1960, with his colleague Tom Pugh, MacMahon published Epidemiologic Methods, later to become Epidemiology: Principles and Methods, which was the first modern epidemiology textbook and served as the standard text for decades.


At Harvard, MacMahon built a department that developed national and international leadership in epidemiologic methods, particularly with respect to cancer. His graduates have become leaders in academia and governmental research units worldwide. He is most widely known for his research on the etiology of breast cancer, which included a novel international case-control study.

Source: Epidemiology, Volume 15, Number 4, July 2004. Voices Interview: A Conversation with Brian MacMahon.