Hart, Ernest Abraham

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HART, ERNEST ABRAHAM (1836–1898), British physician, medical editor, and humanitarian. Born and educated in London, during the Crimean War (1854) Hart led his fellow students in a successful appeal to the Admiralty to improve the status of the naval doctors aboard ship. At 20 he qualified as a specialist in opththalmology and in 1864 became an ophthalmologic surgeon and lecturer at St. Mary's Hospital in London. He introduced new methods in dealing with eye diseases, particularly in the treatment of aneurysm. Later he was appointed aural surgeon and dean of the medical school.

In 1858 he had begun writing for the medical journal, Lancet, and shortly thereafter was named coeditor. In 1866 he accepted the editorship of the British Medical Journal, the official publication of the British Medical Association. He expanded and improved the journal and through his efforts the membership of the Association increased rapidly. As chairman of its Parliamentary Bills Committee, he undertook a number of projects to eliminate the ills which militated against public health and sound social conditions in Britain. His exposure of the deplorable state of the London workhouse infirmaries led to the establishment of the Metropolitan Asylums Board and to better treatment of the sick among the poor. He campaigned against the evil of baby farming, and it was largely through his efforts that the Infant Protection Act was passed in 1872. Hart had a large part in securing legislation ensuring the quality of the milk supply in cities, in abating the smoke nuisance, bettering working conditions in factories, and safeguarding the health of workers. He worked for the amelioration of the plight of Irish peasants and for reclaiming of wasteland in Ireland. He attacked the Indian Government for its neglect in eliminating the conditions which produced cholera. He denounced the fraud of hypnotism and mesmerism in a series of articles, which appeared under the title of "The Eternal Gullible."

As a young man he had advocated the granting of equal rights to Jews in the columns of Frazier's magazine and in 1877 he published The Mosaic Code, which dealt with the hygienic laws of the Bible.