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The importance of the subjects dealt with in the following pages and their intimate bearing upon the well-being of mankind will not be disputed. The question is rather whether public interest in them is, or can be, so aroused as to popularise their study.
Scientific people ought not to be supercilious in regard to the apathy and ignorance which still, unfortunately, prevail upon matters relating to public health. Most of what is here so clearly laid down and so well explained is the product of modern research and observation. Although the principles of these, as of all scientific truths, are old and eternal, the need for their application to our daily wants has only been realised since the growth of population has brought about evils which could no longer be ignored by the people, or suffered to escape State interference.
The clustering of many households in our urban community must, from the first, have led to the establishment of common agencies for those services in connection with the dwelling-house which are discharged, in our modern parlance, by "the local authority,” at the cost of the " local rate.”
Drainage of houses, surface drainage, scavenging, paving and lighting of streets, water supply, prevention or extinction of fire, &c., must have been provided by each householder for himself if he had not a municipality to furnish such conveniences more cheaply and more comprehensively at the common charge—a charge readily borne as lending value to each separate habitation.
The “ Cloaca Maxima” still remains at Rome to show that such things were required and provided two thousand five hundred years ago; but we need not trace. the history of municipal sanitary functions from so distant a date.
The greater part of that which is dealt with in the accompanying Handbooks is regulated by statutes passed within the last thirty years, originally through the agency of the Privy Council and the Home Office, more recently through that of the Local Government Board, which has become since 1872 the Ministry of Public Health in this kingdom.
The Royal Sanitary Commission paved the way for this great change in our system of Local Government, and the passing of the Public Health Act in 1875, followed in the subsequent year by the Sale of Food and Drugs Act and the Pollutions of Rivers Prevention Act, marked a further stage in the development of the new administration, and in its powers for good.
In reference to the Public Health Act, the late learned Mr. Lumley, Q.C., remarks (in his annotated edition of that statute) as follows:
“ This statute is that upon which, for the future, the powers and duties of all sanitary authorities in England will depend. It consolidates and collects into one compass a number of detached and isolated statutes, and presents the whole in one connected code to those numerous bodies who are called upon to exercise sanitary functions, for their daily use. It cannot be expected to be a final measure, but the present Act is in itself so extensive, so complete, and for the most part so explicit, that it must remain the substantial code of the sanitary law of England for many years."
The writers of several of this collection of Handbooks will be the first to recognise the inestimable service rendered to sanitary science and practice in this country by Mr. John Simon, C.B., as Medical Officer of the Privy Council and of the Local Government Board. The nature and causes of typhoid fever, for example, may be said to