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(CNN) -- Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, a pediatric surgeon turned public health advocate, died Monday. He was 96.

Koop served as surgeon general from 1982 to 1989, under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

He was outspoken on controversial public health issues and did much to raise the profile the office of the surgeon general.

He died peacefully at his home in Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College said in a news release announcing his death.

"Dr. Koop did more thantake care of his individual patients -- he taught all of us aboutcritical health issues that affect our larger society," said DartmouthPresident Carol L. Folt. "Through that knowledge, he empowered each ofus to improve our own well-being and quality of life.Dr. Koop's commitment to education allowed him to do something mostphysicians can only dream of: improving the health of millions of peopleworldwide."

Koop, called "Chick" by his friends,wasperhaps best known for his work around HIV/AIDS. He wrote a brochureabout the disease that was sent to 107 million households in the UnitedStates in 1988. It was the largest public health mailing ever, accordingto a biography of Koop on a website of the surgeon general.

He was also well-known for his work around tobacco, calling for a "smoke-free" society. His 1986 surgeon general's report on thedangers of secondhand smoke was seminal.

"That was the shot heardaround the world, and it began to change public policy everywhere," saidJohn Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society.

The report started the move toward prohibiting smoking on airplanes, restaurants and at workplaces.

"The legacy of C.Everett Koop is how a wonderful, famous pediatric surgeon, who'd alreadymade a name for himself, was willing at a relatively advanced age to dopublic service and show bold leadership that would have dramatic impactand change the world," Seffrin said.

Prior to his tenure assurgeon general, Koop was surgeon-in-chief at the Children's Hospital ofPhiladelphia, where he was a pioneer in the field of pediatric surgeryand helped to establish the country's first neonatal intensive carenursery.He was also the founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Pediatric Surgery, Dartmouth said.

Koop was born in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Dartmouth,Weill Cornell Medical College and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

He was the author ofmore than 200 articles and books and the recipient of various awards. In1991, Koop won an Emmy for a five-part series on health care reform,Dartmouth said.He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995.

Known for wearing bowties, suspenders and having a clipped beard, Koop is survived by hiswife, three children and eight grandchildren. His first wife, to whom hewas married for nearly 70 years,died in 2007.

"Dr. Koop was not only apioneering pediatric surgeon but also one of the most courageous andpassionate public health advocates of the past century," said Wiley W.Souba, dean of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. "He did notback down from deeply rooted health challenges or powerful intereststhat stood in the way of needed change. Instead, he fought, he educated,and he transformed lives for the better."

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