Sir Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890), sanitary reformer, born at Longsight, Manchester, on 24 Jan. 1800, was the son of James Chadwick, and grandson of Andrew Chadwick, a friend of John Wesley. James Chadwick was a man of versatile talents; he taught botany and music to John Dalton (1766-1844) the chemist; was an associate of the advanced liberal politicians of his time; edited the Statesman newspaper during the imprisonment of its editor, Daniel Lovell; became editor of the Western Times, and finally settled as a journalist in New York, where he died at the age of eighty-four.

Edwin Chadwick received his early education at Longsight and Stockport, and on the removal of his family to London in 1810 his training was continued by private tutors. At an early age he went into an attorney's office, and subsequently entered as a student at the Inner Temple, where he was called on 26 Nov. 1830. While pursuing his legal studies he eked out his narrow means by writing for the Morning Herald and other papers. His first article in the Westminster Review, contributed in 1828, dealt with "Life Assurance." In the course of preparing it he was led into a train of reasoning that developed into what he called the "sanitary idea," and influenced the whole of his after life. An article on the "Preventive Police," in the London Review, 1829, gained him the admiration and friendship of Jeremy Bentham. He lived with Bentham for a time, assisting him in completing his administration code, and was with him at his death in 1832. Bentham wanted Chadwick to become the systematic and permanent expounder of the Benthamite philosophy, and offered him an independency on that condition. Chadwick declined the proposal but accepted a legacy, and was long regarded as one of the phiosopher's most distinguished disciples. Bentham also left him part of his library, which has now been added to the collection at the University College, Gower Street.

The idea of eradicating disease now took possession of Chadwick's mind, and he spent much time in personal investigation of fever dens. While he was still hesitating as to his future course of life, he received and accepted the offer of an assistant commissionership on the poor-law commission, then (1832) on the threshold of its work. In the following year he was appointed a chief commissioner, his promotion being due to the zeal he had exhibited in collecting a vast array of facts as to the existing system of poor-law management, and to his great ability in suggesting remedies for its evils. His improved methods at first met with disfavour from his colleagues, but eventually his propositions, with some important modifications, were carried out. In the same year (1833) he was engaged on the royal commission appointed to investigate the condition of factory children, and was the chief author of the report which recommended the appointment of government inspectors under a central authority, and the limitation of children's work to six hours daily. Eventually the report led to the passing of the Ten Hours Act and the establishment of the half-time system of education. Among other proposals in the report was one that employers should be held responsible for accidents to their work-people, a suggestion that was, after a very long interval, carried into effect by the passing of the Employers' Liability Act (1898).  In the course of his evidence before a committee of the House of Commons in 1833, he spoke in favor of restricting the traffic in spirituous liquors, and the provision of healthy recreations for the people. He also advocated the payment of pensions to discharged soldiers and sailors, and the desirability of teaching the men a trade while on service.

In 1834 Chadwick took the office of secretary to the new poor-law commission, and thus became chief executive officer under the Poor-law Law Amendment Act. It is little to say that he brought extraordinary industry and ability to bear in his difficult task, which was performed amid many embarrassments. At first he had only half-hearted support from the commissioners, Sir Thomas Frankland Lewis and John G. Shaw-Lefevre, and when they resigned and George Nicholls went to Ireland he was met with strong opposition from their successors, George Cornewall Lewis and Sir Francis Head. As a member of the commission appointed in 1838 to inquire into the best means of establishing an efficient constabulary force, he along with Sir Charles Rowan prepared a report which embodied the principle expounded in his original paper on "Preventive Police:" namely, "to get at the removable antecedents of crime."

The first sanitary commission was am pointed at Chadwick's instigation in 1839, its immediate occasion being due to an application for his assistance by the Whitechapel authorities, who were driven to despair by an epidemical outbreak in their district. The commissioners probed the evil to its source; and their report with its startling resolutions and remedial suggestions attracted very wide attention, and it forthwith became a text-book of sanitation throughout the country. To Chadwick's directing hand in this matter may safely be ascribed the beginning of public sanitary reform.

Abont this time Chadwick induced Lord a Lyndhurst to introduce in the new Registration Act, by which the registrar's office was established, the important clause providing for the registration of the causes as well as the number of deaths. The training of pauper children was a subject which occupied part of his attention in 1840; and his Report on the Result of a Special Inquiry into the Practice of Interment in Towns came out in 1843. His recommendations in both these matters resulted in important legislative measures.

Another sanitary commission suggested by Chadwick was appointed in 1844, and reported the same year, but progress was delayed by critical political events. While this was sitting Chadwick, along with Rowland Hill, John Stuart Mill, Lyon Playfair, Dr. Neill Arnott, and other friends, formed a society called "Friends in Council," which met at each other's houses to discuss questions of political economy.

In 1840 the poor-law commission, estabished in 1834, came to an end, its dissolution is being brought about by disagreements between Chadwick and the two commissioners. Chadwick's own remarkable zeal and his impatience with those who shrank from carrying out his drastic plans of reform, especially those based on his full belief in centralization, undoubtedly contributed largely to breaking up the board. In the following year he became a commissioner to inquire into the health of London, and in the report advocated the separate system of drainage. On the recommendation of Prince Albert he was created Commander of the Bath (among the few non-military personnel to receive this honor) in 1848, in which year the first board of health was formed, with Chadwick as one of the commissioners. He remained in active service until the board was merged in the local government board in 1854, when he retired on a pension of 1,000 pounds a year.

During the Crimean war he persuaded Lord Palmerston to send out a commission to inquire into and relieve the sufferings of the troops. In 1858 he brought before the social science congress the subject of defective sanitation in the Indian army, and the support which his views gained afterwards led to the appointment of the Indian army sanitary commission.

In 1855 his advocacy of competitive examinations as tests for first appointments in the public service was followed by the appointment of the civil service commission. This was an a subject with him, for he had brought it forward in 1829. Among the matters with which he subsequently occupied himself were sanitary engineering, open spaces, agricultural drainage, and sanitation in the tropics. He also urged the maintenance of railways as public highways by a responsible public service.

While in Paris in 1864 in connection with the preparation for an exhibition, Chadwick had a conversation with Napeleon IIl, who asked him what he thought of Paris. Chadwick's characteristic answer was: "Sire, they say that Augustus found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble. If your majesty, finding Paris stinking, will leave it sweet, you will more than rival the first emperor of Rome." The reply so pleased the emperor that he directed an inquiry into the subject referred to.

In 1867 he was brought out as a candidate for the representation of London University in parliament, but was unsuccessful, though he received the active support of John Stuart Mill and many others.

Subsequently, by desire of W. E. Gladstone, Chadwick examined the economy of a general system of cheap postal telegraphy, and in 1871 inquired into a plan for the drainage of Cawnpore, submitted to him by the Duke of Argyll. He presented an alternative plan, that of the "separate system," namely, the removal of storm-water by distinct channels, and of fouled water and excreta by separate self-cleansing house drains and sewers, which principle was approved by the government and carried out by the army sanitary commission. This was the last subject on which Chadwick was consulted by the ministry. He afterwards filled the presidential chair of the section of economy of the British Association, and of the section of public health of the Social Science Association, and presided over the congress of the Sanitary Institute in 1878, and over the section of public health of the sanitary congress in 1881. He also acted as president of the Association of Sanitary Inspectors.

His public services were tardily recognized in 1889 by the bestowal of a knighthood. On the continent his work was well known, and he was elected a corresponding member of the Institutes of France and Belgium, and of the Societies of Medicine and Hygiene of France, Belgium, and Italy. He died at Park Cottage, East Sheen, Surrey, on 6 July 1890. By his marriage in 1889 to Rachel Dawson Kennedy, daughter of John Kennedy (1769-1855) of Manchester, he left an only son, Osbert Chadwick, C.M.G., an eminent sanitary engineer. A portion of his library was presented by his son to the Manchester Free Library.

Chadwick was a voluminous writer of pamphlets, reports, papers, and letters to the press, his latest production being dated 1889. his chief works have been admirably condensed by Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson in two volumes, published in 1889, entitled The Health of Nations: a Review of the Works of Edwin Chadwick, with a Biographical Introduction.  The first volume is in two parts, "Political and Economical," and "Educational and Social," and the second, also in is two parts, "Sanitary and Prevention of Disease," and "Prevention of Pauperism and Poverty." A portrait is prefixed to the first volume.

Source: Sutton CW. The Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. XXII, Suppl., Oxford University Press, 1921-22.

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