CHADWICK, SIR EDWIN (1800–1890), English sanitary reformer, was born at Longsight, near Manchester, on the 24th of January 1800. Called to the bar without any independent means, he sought to support himself by literary work, and his essays in the Westminster Review (mainly on different methods of applying scientific knowledge to the business of government) introduced him to the notice of Jeremy Bentham, who engaged him as a literary assistant and left him a handsome legacy. In 1832 he was employed by the royal commission appointed to inquire into the operation of the poor laws, and in 1833 he was made a full member of that body. In conjunction with Nassau W. Senior he drafted the celebrated report of 1834 which procured the reform of the old poor law. His special contribution was the institution of the union as the area of administration. He favoured, however, a much more centralized system of administration than was adopted, and he never ceased to complain that the reform of 1834 was fatally marred by the rejection of his views, which contemplated the management of poor-law relief by salaried officers controlled from a central board, the boards of guardians acting merely as inspectors. In 1834 he was appointed secretary to the poor law commissioners. Finding himself unable to administer in accordance with his own views an act of which he was largely the author, his relations with his official chiefs became much strained, and the disagreement led, among other causes, to the dissolution of the poor law commission in 1846. Chadwick’s chief contribution to political controversy was his constant advocacy of entrusting certain departments of local affairs to trained and selected experts, instead of to representatives elected on the principle of local self-government. While still officially connected with the poor law he had taken up the question of sanitation in conjunction with Dr Southwood Smith, and their joint labours produced a most salutary improvement in the public health. His report on “The Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population” (1842) is a valuable historical document. He was a commissioner of the Board of Health from its establishment in 1848 to its abolition in 1854, when he retired upon a pension, and occupied the remainder of his life in voluntary contributions to sanitary and economical questions. He died at East Sheen, Surrey, on the 6th of July 1890. He had been made K.C.B. in 1889.
See a volume on The Evils of Disunity in Central and Local Administration . . . and the New Centralization for the People, by Edwin Chadwick (1885); also The Health of Nations, a Review of the Works of Edwin Chadwick, with a Biographical Introduction, by Sir B. W. Richardson (1887).