Edwin Chadwick (1800–1890) was the principal architect of the Sanitary Reform movement in Britain in the nineteenth century; his influence on the philosophy of public health and its translation into legislation was profound. Born near Manchester to a family of Wesleyan landowners, Chadwick was raised in London and trained in law. His father, James, had edited a radical journal, the Spectator. Following the appearance of some of his own writings in the Westminster Review, Edwin came to the attention of two of the leading philosophers and social theorists of the early eighteenth century, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Chadwick served as Bentham's literary secretary from 1830 until the latter's death in 1832, the year in which Chadwick was appointed to the new Poor Law Commission. In that role, his industry in investigating the conditions under which the poor lived, as well as his "knowledge of law,… infinite capacity for taking pains over details, and his skill in marshalling the facts" (Marston 1925, p. 23) led him to exert a steadily greater influence on British public policy in a variety of areas relating to public health.
His advocacy led to the 1836 act that established a registry for births and deaths, and to the 1848 Public Health Act establishing a central board of health. He also influenced legislation on factories, child labor, and water supplies. He served as secretary to the Poor Law Board, and as a member of the first board of health (1848–1852). His sanitary philosophy, most fully explicated in his Enquiry into the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Great Britain (1842) viewed the improvement of drainage, housing, and water supply as an essential national economic good, as it prevented the early deaths of working men. Often uncompromising in his belief in the value of government intervention to remedy unsanitary conditions, he was frequently opposed by his business interests, and held no public office after 1852. He did, however, spend the rest of his long life advocating quietly for "The Sanitary Idea," and was knighted by Queen Victoria in the ninetieth and final year of his life.
(see also: Filth Diseases; History of Public Health; Poverty and Health; Sanitation )
Marston, M. (1925). Sir Edwin Chadwick. London: Leonard Parson.
"Chadwick, Edwin." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chadwick-edwin
"Chadwick, Edwin." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Retrieved July 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chadwick-edwin
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"Chadwick, Edwin." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chadwick-edwin
"Chadwick, Edwin." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved July 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chadwick-edwin