Shattuck, Lemuel

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Lemuel Shattuck was born in 1793 in Ashby, Massachusetts, and he died in 1859 in Boston. Shattuck grew up in a small farming community in New Hampshire where, at the age of nineteen, a religious revival movement inspired him to dedicate his life to improving society. He came to believe that he could enhance the ability of government to respond to social ills through the collection of statistics. After relocating several times throughout New England, Shattuck settled in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1823. There, in 1835, he gained attention for writing A History of the Town of Concord, which included a statistical analysis based on church and municipal records. Shattuck was also responsible for Concord's new code of school regulations, which was based on a method he devised to evaluate the progress of every student in the town.

In 1835, Shattuck moved to Boston, where he became a bookseller and helped form the American Statistical Association. After being elected to the Boston City Council in 1837, Shattuck was asked to create a report analyzing Boston's vital statistics from 1810 to 1841. In addition to his findings, which were published in the American Journal of Medical Sciences, Shattuck outlined a method for the systematic gathering of vital statistics and a plan for analyzing that data. Based on his suggestions, Massachusetts passed the Registration Act of 1842.

Shattuck was also renowned for his 1850 survey of sanitary conditions throughout the state, the Report of the Sanitary Conditions of Massachusetts, which was commissioned by the state legislature. In this report, Shattuck proposed the creation of a permanent statewide public health infrastructure, and he recommended establishing health offices at the state and local levels in order to gather statistical information on public health conditions. Although the legislature did not adopt his comprehensive plan, his specific proposals became routine public health activities over the course of the twentieth century.

Jennifer Koslow

(see also: Statistics for Public Health; Vital Statistics )


Cassedy, J. H. (1975). "The Roots of American Sanitary Reform 18431847: Seven Letters from John H. Griscom to Lemuel Shattuck." Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 30(2):136147.

(1984). American Medicine and Statistical Thinking, 18001860. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Rosenkrantz, B. G. (1972). Public Health and the State: Changing Views in Massachusetts, 18421936. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.