Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/678

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Another important discovery of the last century was the determination of the cause of the well-known lead-colic by Sir George Baker. This opened up the large Held of metallic poisoning which has received so much elucidation and proved of such importance in reference to the water-supply of large communities.

In the present century we have to point to the establishment of the fact of the water-carriage of disease, with which the name of Snow is so honorably associated, the differentiation of continued fevers by Stewart and Jenner, and their connection with the poison of infected excreta by the labors of Budd and other eminent men. To those we must add the elaborate investigations into the modes of propagation of cholera, dysentery, and other tropical diseases, and the means by which scarlet fever, diphtheria, etc., are carried from place to place by various channels of communication. It would be unadvisable, even if it were possible, to enter into details on these points, but there is one branch of the subject on which we must dwell for a little. No inquiry can assume a scientific form unless it has a numerical basis to work upon, and therefore it behooves us to note the starting-point of such a basis in hygiene, if we can find it. This we do find in the collection of statistics, a beginning of which was made a long time ago in the bills of mortality kept in this country. We know how imperfect those were, and how even the population of this country was not correctly known until within the lifetime of men still living. But still beginnings were made, and the question taken up more and more enthusiastically by enlightened men, until at last the Government Statistical Department was formed, and that remarkable series of reports begun which will immortalize the name of William Farr. From that time the future of hygiene was assured; for there was sound ground to work on, and, if we add to that the valuable reports on the health of towns published by the commission of which the present Duke of Buccleuch was president, we shall have stated some of the most important foundations of modern sanitary science. Those reports disclosed a state of things little dreamed of, and the statistical returns compiled by Dr. Farr showed how much the life and health of the nation were dependent upon the conditions in which its individual members were placed. The establishment of the General Board of Health, under Mr. Chadwick, was one of the valuable outcomes of this remarkable movement. Although the original Board of Health was brought to an end in 1854, yet its work has been continued and expanded under Mr. Simon, his colleagues and successors, in spite of many difficulties and obstacles.

The part which the public services, such as the army and navy, played in the progress of hygiene was very important, as might indeed be expected; for under no other circumstances could bodies of men be so well observed, and the effects of surroundings and conditions upon health noted. Accordingly, we have a long roll of names