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About Us: History of the Department

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The University of Washington was founded in 1861 as the Territorial University of Washington. From a school serving fewer than forty students, it has grown to be the largest public university in Washington state with campuses in Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma. Approximately 4,100 full-time faculty serve a student population of over 47,000, including graduate and professional students. The University offers undergraduate, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees in 150 departments and units.

The School of Public Health (SPH) is a national leader in public health education and research. One of 18 schools and colleges at the University of Washington, the School has five departments: Biostatistics, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, Epidemiology, Health Services, and Global Health. There are also interdisciplinary programs in Health Administration, Maternal and Child Health, Nutritional Sciences, Pathobiology and Public Health Genetics.

The University of Washington first offered degrees in Biostatistics in 1965 through an interdisciplinary program called the Biomathematics Group. At the time there was a Biostatistics Unit within the Medical School. For many years the Biomathematics Group enjoyed wide and active participation from faculty in Mathematics, Biostatistics, Zoology, Fisheries, Forestry, Genetics and other campus units. In 1970 the School of Public Health was formed and the Department of Biostatistics within it. The Statistics Department at the University of Washington was established in 1979 with the support and enthusiasm of the Department of Biostatistics. While the Statistics Department was formed separately from Biostatistics, the two departments at the University of Washington have a long history of collaboration and collegiality. For example, in 2000 the two departments jointly added Statistical Genetics pathways to their PhD programs, as well as a Master’s-level Statistical Genetics certificate program.

Over its 40+ year history the Department has benefitted from the leadership and vision of five outstanding chairs:

1970-1973 Edward Perrin
1973-1983 Donovan Thompson
1983-1993 Norman Breslow
1993-2005 Thomas Fleming
2006-present Bruce Weir

The Department of Biostatistics currently grants MS, MPH, and PhD degrees in Biostatistics.

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