Skip to main content

Sydenstricker, Edgar


Edgar Sydenstricker (18811936) was a pioneer public health statistician, an eloquent advocate of measures aimed at enhancing the health of the American people, and an inspiring teacher who impressed on his students the importance of recognizing their social responsibility to attack and solve intractable public health problems. He was born in Shanghai, China, the son of American Presbyterian missionary parents, and educated at Fredericksburg College in Virginia. After working as a journalist for two years, he then studied political economy at the University of Chicago before commencing a lifetime of public health service, concentrating on the problems of the poor and the underprivileged.

Sydenstricker worked in the United States Public Health Service (PHS), for the League of Nations, and for the Milbank Memorial Fund. In the PHS he worked initially with Joseph Goldberger on studies of pellagra, then in 1920 he was appointed chief of the Office of Statistical Investigations. In this office, he initiated many investigations, the best known of which was the Hagerstown Morbidity Survey, which began in 1921. This could be regarded as a precursor of the U.S. National Health Survey. Related surveys followed, using the same methods of intermittent or continuous observation, including surveys on the costs of medical care. In collaboration with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, he produced detailed statistical analysis of the information contained in the medical examination records of policy holders. In 1923, Sydenstricker developed some of these studies at an international level for the League of Nations while on leave from the PHS. During the Great Depression, he conducted studies of the effects of poverty and deprivation on health. He died suddenly at age fifty-four of a cerebral hemorrhage.

John M. Last

(see also: Goldberger, Joseph; United States Public Health Service [USPHS] )


Kasius, R. V., ed. (1974). The Challenge of Facts: Selected Public Health Papers of Edgar Sydenstricker. New York: Milbank Memorial Fund.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sydenstricker, Edgar." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . 19 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Sydenstricker, Edgar." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . (February 19, 2019).

"Sydenstricker, Edgar." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Retrieved February 19, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.