Chadwick, Sir Edwin


The notable British 19th century public health advocate agrees to meet a fellow reformer on his lecture on the health of towns



Autograph ID: 6240
Condition: Very good
Description: “(1800-1890) English social reformer noted for his work to reform the Poor Laws and improve sanitary conditions and public health. At 18, he apprenticed at an attorney’s office,becoming a barrister in 1830. With no independent means, he supported himself by literary work such as his “Applied Science and its Place in Democracy”, and his essays in The Westminster Review, mainly on different methods of applying scientific knowledge to the practice of government. He was friends with John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham; Bentham engaged him as a literary assistant and left him a large legacy. From his exposure to social reform and influenced by his friends, he began in 1832 to devote his efforts to sanitary reform and improving health conditions. In 1832, he was employed by the Royal Commission to inquire into operation of the Poor Law and in 1833 became a full Commission member. Chadwick co-drafted the report of 1834, recommending reform of the old law. In 1834, he became secretary to the Poor Law commissioners. Unwilling to administer an act of what he was largely the author in any way other than as he thought best, he did not get along with his superiors which contributed to the dissolution of the Poor Law Commission in 1847. While still working with the Poor Law, he took up the issue of sanitation with Dr. Thomas Southwood Smith. Their efforts produced improvement in public health. In investigations into the living conditions of the poor, Chadwick became interested in the problem of sanitation. A confirmed believer in miasma theories, he was convinced that active measures such as cleaning, drainage and ventilation would make people healthier and less dependent on welfare. The first appearance of cholera in 1831 was followed in 1837 and 1838 by epidemics of influenza and typhoid, prompting the government to ask Chadwick to carry out a new inquiry into sanitation. In his 1842 report, “The Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population”, he used quantitative methods to show a direct link between poor living conditions and disease and life expectancy. A supplementary report was issued in 1843. Formation of the Health of Towns Association and creation of city-based branches followed rapidly. National and local movements contributed to passing the Public Health Act of 1848. He was a commissioner of the London Metropolitan Commission of Sewers 1848-49 and a General Board of Health commissioner from its creation in 1848 to its abolition in 1854, when he retired. In January 1884, he was appointed 1st president of the Association of Public Sanitary Inspectors, now the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health; its head office in London is named Chadwick Court in his honor. In recognition of his public service, he was knighted in 1889, the year he wrote “The Present and General Condition of Sanitary Science”.

7 x 4 1/2 ALS noted “private” at top left, np (London), January 6 1846, to reformer-lecturer Thomas Beggs. Chadwick will be glad to see Beggs “on the subject of your lectures on the health of towns” any morning after 10.

THOMAS BEGGS (1808-1896) variously secretary of the Health of Towns’ Association and secretary of the Complete Suffrage Association. In 1846 he published “Three Lectures on the Moral Elevation of the People” and, in 1849, an essay on “The Cholera: the Claims of the Poor Upon the Rich”. His 1849 ” An inquiry into the Extent and Causes of Juvenile Depravity” recognized the close relationship between poverty and social deprivation on the one hand and crime on the other, but identified particularly the destructive results of intemperance.”
Type: Letter

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