Ernst L. Wynder

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Ernst Wynder MD was one of the true pioneers of research into the adverse health effects of smoking. As a student he worked as an assistant to Everts Graham, the first surgeon to successfully remove a cancerous lung and have the patient survive. He had access to Grahams patient files and he initiated one of the earliest scientifically conducted epidemiology studies which showed unequivocally that lung-cancer was certainly a disease of smokers,

Eventually Wynder set up as an epidemiologist at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and was a pioneer in researching the link between tobacco and disease. He was one of the first scientists to report in 1950 on the carginocencity of cigarette "tar" (smoke condensate) in rats whose skin was painted with cigarette "tar." He imported a German chemical researcher, Dietrich Hoffman and the two formed a life-long partnership. They worked at Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research until the obtained enough funding to create the American Health Foundation (AHF).

American Health Foundation
AHF (Doc Index)
Dietrich K Hoffman
Evarts A Graham

In 1976 he was in Germany where he obviously found it easier to find research funding. See this attack on him by tobacc lawyer Edwin Jacob (Jacob & Medinger) which was the law firm for RJ Reynolds. He has prepared a report on all the known German research activities. He makes these points:

  • They are trying to produce a 'safe cigarette" which implies that "current cigarettes are unsafe."
  • We strenuously object to a series of projects to be undertaken by Dr Ernst Wynder due to the geographical situation. (They wanted to "exclude Wynder as a candidate for research")
  • Our objections to the Wynder Projects are very strong. It deals with a comparison of American tobacco products and their health consequences on American smokers by an American researcher who is avowedly anti-tobacco. RJ Reynolds would take a very dim view of anyone supporting Dr Wynder's research. (It places) the American industry in a potentially embarrassing situation. [1]

Tobacco secret funding

His ego led him to believe that he alone was capable of identifying the cancerous substance in tobacco smoke, and he therefore took the offered American tobacco industry funding for a chain of projects directed at designing the "safe cigarette". The AHF came to depend on tobacco funding, and Wynder gradually drifted into the role of poodle rather than attack-dog with the industry. Later it became difficult to identify when Wynder was pro- and anti-smoking.

Wynder directed the American Health Foundation (AHF) from 1984 until his death in 1998. Researchers still disputes to what extent Wynder supported the industry in his later years. What is most worrying, is that Wynder's AHF was agreeable to receiving $250,000 a year for five years (1991-1996) from Philip Morris, with the money laundered by Robert McVicar through the KGF Foundation (Kraft General Foods)


Ernst Wynder was born in Herford, Germany. His family emigrated to New Jersey in 1938 to escape Nazi persecution. He attended medical school at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, and received both a bachelor of science and a medical degree in 1950. Wynder began his lung cancer investigations when he was a medical student. While attending a summer internship at New York University, his curiosity was piqued during the autopsy of a two-pack-a-day smoker who had died from lung cancer. Wynder began collecting case histories of lung cancer victims, first in New York City and then in St. Louis. His research brought him to thoracic surgeon Evarts Graham, who, despite initial skepticism about Wynder's premise (Graham was a heavy smoker), granted access to his extensive case records, and agreed to sponsor the medical student.[2]

Ernst Wynder was President and Founder of the American Health Foundation and the Sloan-Kettering, Naylor-Dana Institute. (PMI's Introduction to Privilege Log and Glossary of Names, Estate of Burl Butler v. PMI, et al, April 19, 1996). Wynder was a pioneer researcher in the field of tobacco and disease.(E. Whelan 1984) Wynder was a scientist at the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and was the first scientist to paint a cigarette-smoke condensate on the backs of mice and produce tumors, per Marc Edell. Jenkins, pp. 184, 192; WSJ 2/11/93) He was a medical student under Dr. Evarts A. Graham at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri in 1949.(E. Whelan 1984) He was also president and director of the American Health Foundation in 1984.(E. Whelan 1984; UPI 1/12/84)

Dr. Ernst Wynder and Dr. Evarts Graham published the results of the first large-scale research on smoking in the May 7, 1950 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, titled "Tobacco Smoking as a Possible Etiologic Factor in Bronchiogenic Carcinoma." He concluded that "excessive and prolonged use of tobacco, especially cigarettes, seems to be an important factor in the induction of bronchiogenic carcinoma."(E. Whelan 1984) The study found that of 605 men with lung cancer, 96.5 percent were smokers. In the control group (men without lung cancer) only 73.7 percent were smokers, and the authors concluded that "Excessive and prolonged use of tobacco . . . especially cigarettes, seems to be an important factor in the induction of bronchogenic carcinoma."(L. White, Merchants of Death: The American Tobacco Industry 1988).

At the December 3, 1953 Greater New York Dental Meeting, Dr. Ernst Wynder reported that more than 5,000 lung cancer patients had been studied in England, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, and the U.S. and that all of them had the same condition: "The prolonged and heavy use of cigarettes increases the risk of developing cancer of the lung."(L. White, Merchants 1988).

Tobacco industry documents reveal that Philip Morris worked from 1955 to 1995 to try and influence and manipulate Wynder through large equipment loans and grants. Wynder did accept money and assistance from the company without revealing it's source, however.[1]


  1. Chasing Ernst L. Wynder: 40 years of Philip Morris' efforts to influence a leading scientist. Chapman S., Fields N. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 2003.57:571-578, Bates No. 3006692856/2863

Note: If the E. Whelan listed in a series of 1984 references above is Elizabeth Whelan of the American Council of Science and Health (ACSH) then the reader should be wary about the accuracy of the claims.

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