Liceaga, Eduardo

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Liceaga, Eduardo

(b. Guanajuato, Mexico, 13 October 1839; d. Mexico City, Mexico, 14 January 1920),

medicine, public health.

The son of a physician, Liceaga received his primary education at Guanajuato. After attending college in Mexico City and Guanajuato, he entered the School of Medicine in Mexico City, where he received the M.D. in 1866. After graduation he taught physics and natural history at the College of San Ildefonso. In 1868 he joined the staff of the School of Medicine as associate professor of surgery and became professor the following year. Appointed dean in 1902, he reformed the curriculum and resigned in 1911. Liceaga served on the staff of the San Andres and maternity hospitals in addition to conducting a private practice. A member of the National Academy of Medicine, he was its president in 1878-1879 and 1906-1907.

Liceaga is better known as a hygienist and is considered the father of modern public health in Mexico. His interest was awakened by Chandler, chairman of the New York State Board of Health, while on a visit to the United States in 1883. As chairman of the Council of Public Health, which post he held until his resignation in 1914, Liceaga helped to organize public health work throughout Mexico. In 1891 he drafted the first sanitary code. Read at a meeting of the American Public Health Association, it was characterized by Baker as more advanced than any in the United States. Under Liceaga’s influence the code was amended in 1894 and a new version enacted in 1902.

In 1887-1888 Liceaga visited Europe, inspecting public health works—mostly water supply, sewage, and fumigation facilities—in Paris, Vienna, Brussels, and Berlin. At Vienna he attended the International Congress of Hygiene and Demography; and in Paris he obtained rabies virus from the Pasteur Institute through Roux, which enabled him to administer the first human vaccination in Mexico in 1888.

Liceaga’s successful campaigns against plague, yellow fever, and malaria and his efforts to arouse public interest in the fight against tuberculosis brought him international recognition. He organized the first and second Mexican Medical Congresses (1876, 1878) and was president of both. At the 1883 National Congress of Hygiene he presented a full program for public health legislation and administration. At the first Pan-American Sanitary Conference (Washington, 1902) he was influential in establishing the Pan-American Sanitary Bureau. Liceaga was president of the third convention, held in Mexico City in 1907. He also was president of the American Public Health Association in 1895.

In 1941 the Mexican government created the Eduardo Liceaga Medal (three classes) as the highest national distinction awarded in the field of public health.


I. Original Works. Liceaga’s autobiography is Mis recuerdos de otros tiempos (Mexico City, 1949). His articles include “Defensa de los puertos y ciudades fronterizas de México contra la epidemia de cólera que invadió Europa,” in Documentos e informes de la 20a. reunión de la Asociación americana de salud pública (Mexico City, 1894), 257-266; “El combate contra la tuberculosis,” in Gaceta médica de México, 3rd ser., 2 (1907), 117-147; and “El combate contra la fiebre amarilla y la malaria en la República mexicana,” in Memorias IV Congreso médico natonal mexicano (Mexico City, 1910), pp. 579-587.

II. Secondary Literature. See A. Pruneda, “El Dr. Liceaga miembro de la Academia nacional de Medicina” in Gaceta médica de México, 70 (1940), 68, 74; B. Bandera, “El Dr. E. Liceaga, profesor y director de la Escuela national de Medicina,” ibid., 74-78; and M. E. Bustamante, “El doctor Liceaga higienista,” ibid., 79-91.

Enrique BeltrÁn