HANOVER, New Hampshire (CNN) -- Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop died peacefully at his home on Monday, Dartmouth College said. 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 public health issues and did much to raise the profile the office of the surgeon general.
He died at his home in Hanover, New Hampshire, the college said in a news release.
"Dr. Koop did more than take care of his individual patients -- he taught all of us about critical health issues that affect our larger society," said Dartmouth President Carol L. Folt. "Through that knowledge, he empowered each of us to improve our own well-being and quality of life. Dr. Koop's commitment to education allowed him to do something most physicians can only dream of: improving the health of millions of people worldwide."
Koop, who was called "Chick" by his friends, was perhaps best known for his work around HIV/AIDS. He wrote a brochure about the disease that was sent to 107 million households in the United States in 1988. It was the largest public health mailing ever, according to 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 the dangers of smoking was seminal, the biography said.
Prior to his appointment, Koop was surgeon-in-chief at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where he was a pioneer in the field of pediatric surgery. 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 of more than 200 articles and books and the recipient of various awards. In 1991, 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 bow ties, suspenders and a clipped beard, Koop is survived by his wife, three children and eight grandchildren. His first wife, to whom he was married for nearly 70 years, died in 2007.
"Dr. Koop was not only a pioneering pediatric surgeon but also one of the most courageous and passionate public health advocates of the past century," said Wiley W. Souba, dean of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. "He did not back down from deeply rooted health challenges or powerful interests that stood in the way of needed change. Instead, he fought, he educated, and he transformed lives for the better."