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July 2, 2009

Historian Eyler brought old perspective to students

Historian John Eyler has made a lasting impact on his University of Minnesota students and Medical School colleagues throughout his career--and they on him. Jole Shackelford, a colleague of Eyler, recalls: "John was a presence in our office area on the 5th floor of Diehl Hall. He was not a noisy personality, yet he was the focal point for much of the daily discussion, humor, news, banter, etc., that fills up the audio spaces of daily academic life."

Reflecting on his time at the University of Minnesota, Eyler says, "I have appreciated the fact that the Medical School is adjacent to the undergraduate campus. This fact has allowed our program to participate in the undergraduate curriculum, graduate education in the history of science and medicine, and in the Medical School. Teaching at all of these levels has been very rewarding. I am very pleased to see former undergraduate students of mine in Medical School, and, more recently, on the Medical School faculty."

His colleague Jennifer Gunn notes: "Every medical student in recent years has been ushered by Dr. Eyler into the sacred arts of anatomy through the perspectives of Vesalius, Morgagni, and Hunter. eyler.jpgHis lectures in physiology and human behavior and the student bioethics series have stimulated a steady flow of medical students to explore historical interests through an elective in medical history.

Eyler's research interests span such topics as: the development of health policy, history of disease, the evolution of social welfare, the changing nature of hospitals, the history of public health, preventive medicine and the history of epidemiology. He has been published on those topics, as well as with articles connecting poverty and disease and the history of vital statistics. Eyler's two books are Victorian Social Medicine: The Ideas and Methods of William Farr and Sir Arthur Newsholme and State Medicine, 1885-1935. His most recent research focuses on the study of influenza in the 20th century.

John Eyler started his academic career by earning a B.A. in history from the University of Maryland in 1966. He went on to receive his doctorate in history of science from the University of Wisconsin in 1971. He then completed a two-year post-graduate fellowship in history of medicine sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Josiah Macy, Jr., Foundation. Eyler's teaching career began in the history department of Northwestern University, prior to joining the History of Medicine Program at the University of Minnesota in 1974. Eyler found the University of Minnesota a good place to settle and to thrive. Under his leadership, the graduate program in the History of Medicine has expanded and successfully merged into a joint graduate program in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. Indeed, the graduate programs in History of Medicine and the History of Science and Technology have consistently ranked among the country's best.

Eyler retired from the position of Program Director and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Minnesota-History of Science, Technology and Medicine in late June 2009.

"My colleagues have been cooperative, responsible, energetic, creative, and good company," says Eyler. "I owe them a great deal."
--Brittany Frascht