Reviews and Notices of Books

1892 The Lancet  
WE have been much gratified by our perusal and examination of this book. It is not by any means a mere compilation or a dry record of details and statistics, but it takes up essential points in evolution, environment, parasitism, prophylaxis and sanitation bearing upon the preservation of public health and discusses them in a suggestive and reflective spirit. It fulfils its title of "Public Health Problems " by the manner in which its author approaches and treats the various subjects and
more » ... ons influencing health. It is not an encyclopaedic handbook or digest to be referred to for figures, details and rules of procedure ; its value lies in its statement of principles and reasons, from a consideration of which the reader should be led to make his own deductions and shape his course accordingly. We may make our meaning clearer, perhaps, by way of illustration. A gifted and highly cultured lady was sensible that time had somewhat weakened her fine memory, and she was rather sensitive on the point. One day, when one of her daughters had gently brought some dropped stitches of information to her recollection, the old lady shrewdly retorted that she had not forgotten them, but had assimilated them long ago." It is not so much in reading a certain class of books that one requires to recollect exactly the information as to assimilate it and record the impression it made at the time. After an introductory chapter in which the ideas to be conveyed within ' the limits of the volume are briefly outlined and allusions are made to the problems of life and health, personal and public, the author proceeds in Part I. to the internal and external influences upon health, and begins with heredity, following it up with chapters on physical influences and chemical media and biological agents. Part II. is devoted to the consideration of communicable diseases, Part III. to defensive measures against these, and Part. IV. to urban dwelling. Heredity is a somewhat intricate and difficult subject, but it is lucidly as well as ably discussed in the chapter devoted to its consideration. The aim of hygiene is to ascertain, first of all, the range of modifiable conditions affecting health, and then to determine the measures and processes by which these conditions can be modified in favour of the individual or community. The limit of adaptation of the individual is much sooner reached than the limit of modification of the environment. The chapter on biological agents briefly indicates the practical principles underlying our recent advances in this direction, and the necessity of studying, in connexion with human pathology, the conditions affecting all organic life and their influence upon the health of man. The subject is considered in more detail in relation to communicable diseases, their causation, dissemination, modifications and parasitism. Under the head of urban conditions the author does well to advert to some points, for example, in regard to the provision of cubic space, which are occasionally apt to be overlooked or disregarded in practice. The amount of space to be provided will manifestly depend upon many circumstances, a thousand cubic feet of air being ample under certain conditions and quite inadequate under others. The importance of superficial and wall space should always be borne in mind in relation to site and the facilities for the ventilation and lighting of a room or building. A man may be suffocated in a crowd with the sky above him, and whether he is in a spacious cathedral or a bandbox ventilation is still essential. The growing evils of town life through defective air, light and space are forcibly dwelt upon and the remedial methods by which these may be overcome or minimised are pointed out. We cordially agree with the author's conclusion of the whole matter to the effect that public opinion is but the expression of public education, and that this is the key that must unlock the doors of ignorance and let in the light and air of hygiene equally as fully as other human knowledge. The knowledge acquired by education must be trusted to bring home to a nation that the acquisition of health means the acquisition of wealth. The information, as well as the writing and the reasoning are of a kind not readily adaptable to the extracting of passages, although we had marked several with the intention of discussing them and of affording some samples of the author's style and method of treating the subject. We must content ourselves,'however, by saying that the book is scientifically and well-written, and that its author has evidently been anxious to gather the latest and best information on public health problems so as to obtain for himself first of all, and afterwards to aid others in getting for themselves, a good grip of the subjects with which he deals.
doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(01)92230-5 fatcat:ywobh37qkff5tkpmct3lgsadsu