Simon, John

views updated May 21 2018


John Simon (18161904), an English physician, was appointed surgeon and lecturer in pathology at St. Thomas's Hospital in London in 1847. In 1848 he became the first medical officer of health to the City of London, holding this position until 1855. His cogent, well-written reports on the health problems of the city, and the steps taken to deal with these problems, are regarded as models of preventive medicine and the administration of public health services. In 1858, Simon became medical officer to the Privy Council, a post equivalent to the modern office of chief medical officer or, in the United States, surgeon general. Simon had overall responsibility for the organization and administration of national public health services. He oversaw the passage of the Public Health Act of 1875, but resigned the following year because of disagreements about implementing policies he advocated.

Among Simon's principal achievements, two stand out. The first was his supervision of measures taken in 1866 to enhance public sanitation, including the provision of clean drinking water and safe sanitary disposal; the second was the establishment of the General Medical Council, the licensing body for medical practitioners in the United Kingdom. His work on sanitary science and public health practice made Britain the European (and world) leader in public health in the late nineteenth century. His books include two classics of public health, Public Health Reports (1887) and English Sanitary Institutions (1890). Modern readers can gain much useful insight into public health practice from either of these books. Simon was awarded a knighthood in 1897.

John M. Last

(see also: History of Public Health; Sanitation )

Simon, Sir John

views updated May 21 2018

Simon, Sir John (1873–1954). Liberal politician and eminent barrister. Simon's collection of high offices—home secretary, foreign secretary, chancellor of the Exchequer, and lord chancellor—was unique in the 20th cent. He rose from modest beginnings through sheer brain power to achieve cabinet rank: before the First World War he had been appointed solicitor-general (1910) and attorney-general (1913). Thereafter his career suffered with the decline of the Liberal Party. But he returned to government in 1931 as foreign secretary at the head of his own band of Liberal National MPs. It was an inauspicious time to hold this office and Simon's reputation declined as first Japan, then Italy and Germany, challenged the authority of the League of Nations. He was more suited to the Home Office (1935–7), playing an important part in the abdication crisis, but as chancellor of the Exchequer (1937–40) his cautious financial control failed to take sufficient account of the need to rearm. In 1940 Churchill sent him to the Lords as lord chancellor, a position for which his legal talents well qualified him. Once thought of as a radical among Liberals, he was, by the end, for practical purposes a Conservative. His intellectual gifts made him reluctant to reach clear-cut decisions. But his greatest failing in public life was an inability to relate to others and a widespread—but not always deserved—reputation for insincerity.

David Dutton

Simon, Sir John

views updated May 11 2018


SIMON, SIR JOHN (1818–1897), English lawyer and politician. Simon was the first Jew to practice at the common law bar and exercise the functions of a judge. Born in Jamaica, the son of a merchant, Simon went to England in 1833, graduated from London University in 1841, and was called to the bar a year later. After practicing in Jamaica for two years he returned to England, where he quickly won distinction in the courts. In 1858 he was junior counsel in the state trial following the Orsini conspiracy, a cause célèbre surrounding the attempted assassination of Napoleon iii, and in the same year became an assistant to the judges of the county courts. He was later appointed president of the City of London court and became a sergeant-at-law in 1864 and a queen's counsel in January 1868. From 1868 until 1888 Simon was Liberal member of Parliament for Dewsbury. In the House of Commons he availed himself of every opportunity to champion the cause of oppressed Jewry throughout the world, and his efforts to arouse public opinion against the Russian pogroms led the lord mayor of London to convene a public meeting at Guildhall to register British indignation at the czarist persecution of Jews. His devotion to the Jewish cause in parliament led him to be known as "the member for Jewry." Simon was a founder of the Anglo-Jewish Association and a member of the Reform Synagogue. He was not related to either of the other prominent non-Jewish men with the same name as his, the Victorian surgeon and officer of health (1816–1904) or the barrister and cabinet minister (1873–1954), with whom he is sometimes confused. His son oswald john simon (1855–1932) followed in his father's footsteps and continued to draw the attention of the British public to the plight of East European Jewry.

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