The Usher Institute was home to the first Chair of Public Health in the United Kingdom in 1898.
Louis Pasteur shocked at Edinburgh's public health
This innovation can be traced back to famous French biologist, Louis Pasteur – who reportedly visited Edinburgh in 1884 to celebrate the University of Edinburgh’s 300th birthday. Shocked at the public health situation in Edinburgh at the time he spoke with local businessmen – Andrew Low Bruce and Sir John Usher – who jointly agreed to fund the new Chair of Public Health at the University, to lead an evidence-based approach to improving public health in the region.
Chair of Public Health funded
The late Mr. A. L. Bruce, by a codicil to his will, dated November 27th 1893, left a legacy of £5,000 to the University of Edinburgh to assist in founding a Chair of Public Health... To further this end Mrs. A. L. Bruce gave £500; Miss A. Blackwood Bruce £500; other members of the family £163; Messers. William Younger and Co., £1,000; and Sir John Usher completed the endowment of the chair by a gift of £8,000, bringing the total funds up to £15,163. Dr Charles Hunter Stewart... was appointed to the new Chair.
The Bruce and John Usher Chair of Public Health remains to this day at the University of Edinburgh.
First Usher Institute building
Sir John Usher kindly donated a further £10,000 to fund a new, purpose built institute building for the growing work in public health.
The institute stands on the south side of Warrender Park Road, with a frontage to the north. The exterior of the building shows a treatment of the classic Renassiance detail, somewhat resembling the new University buildings in Teviot Place.
The Usher Institute building on Warrender Park Road includes the coat of arms of the then Chancellor of the University (The Right Hon. A.J. Balfour) and Sir John Usher over the entrance.
Usher Institute name revived
In 2015, when the existing Centre for Population Health Sciences grew to become an Institute, with the addition of two new Centres in Medical Informatics and Global Health, reviving the name of 'Usher' was suggested by the then Bruce and John Usher Chair of Public Health, Professor Raj Bhopal.
We were delighted that the latest professor to hold the Bruce and John Usher Chair of Public Health, joining the Usher Institute in 2018, is Professor Linda Bauld. Linda is the first female to hold the Chair, 120 years after it was originally funded.