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Ian Higgins was professor emeritus of epidemiology and environmental and industrial health at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health. He had a distinguished career in research, teaching, and public service, and was an internationally renowned expert in the epidemiology of chronic respiratory diseases, cancer, coronary heart disease, and other diseases resulting from occupational and environmental exposures to hazardous materials, including cigarette smoke and air pollution. He devoted much of his career to improving the health and wellbeing of miners, industrial workers, schoolchildren, and the elderly.
Ian was born in Edinburgh and educated in England at Gresham's College and The London Hospital. His medical degrees included MD and MRCP. He was elected to fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians, the American Epidemiology Society, the American College of Epidemiology, and the Epidemiology Council of the American Heart Association. Before emigrating to the United States in 1963, he held appointments in medicine and paediatrics in hospitals in the United Kingdom. In 1953 he joined the scientific staff of the Medical Research Council's pneumoconiosis research unit in Wales.
In 1963 he was appointed professor of chronic disease epidemiology in the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. He joined the faculty of the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan in 1967. Colleagues recall his prodigious research publications, the wealth of material and depth of experience he brought to his teaching, and the humour with which he “salted” his lectures. He also served on many committees of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Institutes of Health, the American Heat Association, and the American Lung Association. Ian retired from the university in 1985.
After his retirement from the University of Michigan, Ian served as director of epidemiology at the American Health Foundation in New York and engaged in private consulting practice from his home in Bethesda, Maryland.
Ian loved to read and could recite by heart poems he learnt from his schooldays to his 80s. He was an accomplished pianist with a lovely light touch, and he delighted in listening to music. His families from birth to death were a source of great joy to him, and he to them.
Ian is survived by his wife, Millicent, professor emeritus of epidemiology and internal medicine; sons John and Paul; brother and sisters; granddaughter; and daughters-in-law.
Friends were invited to a reception in memory of Ian at his home on 15 April 2006. Contributions in his memory were made to the Epidemiology Research (Higashi) Fund, and the Arboretum—Matthei Botanical Gardens at the University of Michigan.