See his autobiography (1916); biography by K. E. Harrod (1960); L. Brown et al., Edward Livingston Trudeau: A Symposium (1935).
Trudeau was born in New York City to a family of physicians. During his late teens, his elder brother James contracted tuberculosis and Edward nursed him until his death three months later. At twenty, he enrolled in the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University (then Columbia College), completing his medical training in 1871. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1873. Following conventional thinking of the times, his physicians and friends urged a change of climate. He went to live in the Adirondack Mountains, initially at Paul Smith's Hotel, spending as much time as possible in the open; he subsequently regained his health. In 1876 he moved to Saranac Lake and established a medical practice among the sportsmen, guides and lumber camps of the region.
In 1882, Trudeau read about Prussian Dr. Hermann Brehmer's success treating tuberculosis with the "rest cure" in cold, clear mountain air. Following this example, Trudeau founded the Adirondack Cottage Sanitorium, with the support of several of the wealthy businessmen he had met at Paul Smiths. In 1894, after a fire destroyed his small laboratory, Trudeau organized the Saranac Laboratory for the Study of Tuberculosis, the first laboratory in the United States for the study of tuberculosis. Renamed the Trudeau Institute, the laboratory continues to study infectious diseases. One of Trudeau's early patients was author Robert Louis Stevenson and in gratitude, Stevenson presented Trudeau with a complete set of his works, each one dedicated with a different verse by Stevenson (the books were later lost in a fire at Saranac). Trudeau's fame helped establish Saranac Lake as a center for the treatment of tuberculosis.
Trudeau had two sons, Edward Livingston Trudeau Jr., who died of tuberculosis, and Francis B. Trudeau, who succeeded his father at the sanatorium as director until 1954. Francis B. Trudeau's son, Francis Trudeau, Jr. is the father of cartoonist Garry Trudeau.
On May 12, 2008, the United States Postal Service issued a 76 cent stamp picturing Trudeau, part of the Distinguished Americans series. An inscription identifies him as a "phthisiologist" (an obsolete term for a tuberculosis specialist).