Page images

alteration in the law of settlement whereby an owner may have the liberty of selling land if he desires to do so.

Labourers at wages with allotments would probably be more prosperous than if they tried to obtain a living by cultivating (as peasant proprietors) a few acres of land without capital, except under some helpful circumstances as stated in Chapter xxxiv.; but there are persons in all districts who, engaged in professions, trades, situations, etc., would be glad to possess a few acres of freehold land if it were made more easy for them to acquire it.

By a large increase in small freehold landed proprietors in rural districts and around every town in the Kingdom, numbers of persons would be withdrawn from the combinations of disturbers, a feeling of greater contentment engendered, and a strong repressing influence upon recurrent agitations created.

C. F. DowsETT.


NOTE.-This Book is divided into seven sections, which might appropriately have been headed Health, Social, Investments, Technical, Legal, Scientific, Special. But as this might have subjected it to the criticism that a few chapters could as well have been classed in one section as in another, numbers instead of names have been adopted. C. F. D.




Diplomate in Public Health Univ. Camb. ; Member General Council Univ. Edin.; Medical Officer of Health St. Leonard's, Shoreditch ; Hon. Sec. Public Health .jsed. Society; Author of “Aids to Sanitary Science,” &c., &c.,

And GEORGE BROWN, M.R.C.S. Eng., L.S.A. Lond.,

Gold Medallist in Medicine and Surgery, Charing Cross Hospital; //resident of the General Practitioners' Alliance; Editor of The Hospital Gazette"; Author of - “Aids to Surgery,” &c., &c.

THE late Sir Edwin Chadwick has pointed it out as a fact, no less curious than true, that the strongest inhabitants of our large cities are those who have not inhabited them for more than one generation. Were it not for the continuous immigration from country districts the population of our large cities would rapidly decrease in numbers, constitution and health ; indeed, it has been said that it would entirely die out after three generations. Evidence of this degeneracy in physical strength was given by Sir James McGregor, at one time DirectorGeneral of the Army Medical Board; he had found that “a corps levied from the agricultural districts in Wales, or the northern counties of England, lasted longer than one recruited from the manufacturing towns—from Birmingham, Manchester, or near the Metropolis.” So great and permanent is the deterioration which goes on in town-dwellers, that out of 613 recruits enlisted from among them, only 223 were fit to join the service. Reference to the figures published by the RegistrarGeneral confirms—if confirmation be necessary—the statement that the country is healthier than the town ; thus the death-rate during the last decade averaged 20 per IOOO inhabitants of large towns, while it was only 17 per 1000 for those living in small towns and in the country. The very fact of bringing people to live nearer one another seems to have an important bearing upon their health, and it has been laid down as a rule by Drs. Farr and Ogle that so soon as there are more than about 4oo persons resident per square mile, the death-rate increases in a definite ratio.” Even were not our towns increasing rapidly in size from the crowding into them of people from the country, the matter is one which should claim the attention of our legislators, both parliamentary and parochial. But, unfortunately, the recent census showed distinctly that the rural districts were being drained of their population, and it is urgently necessary, if a national calamity is to be averted, that steps should be taken at once to enable the rural population to remain at home under the healthful surroundings of the country. It is desirable to enquire what the causes are to which we can attribute the marked difference which obtains between, the health of the town and country dweller. Popular opinion in this instance approaches very near the truth when it ascribes to “fresh-air " a leading place in the beneficial influences of country life; for in the phrase “fresh-air" the physician includes a number of conditions, each of which plays an important part. To find air almost perfectly pure, free from impurities of all kinds, we must either go out to sea or ascend some five or six thousand feet into the mountains. But between this and the polluted atmosphere of our towns there are many gradations. The close crowding of houses and streets, the result of the high value of building sites, the accumulation of refuse, and the stagnation of air, to a very large extent prevent the action of those processes which Nature has provided for the removal of harmful products of all kinds; in the country and in better class suburbs, on the contrary, the detached situation of the dwellings permits the free circulation of air and access of sunlight, while the vegetation present removes the contaminations of both air and soil. It is found that impurities in the atmosphere increase as we pass from rural districts to the suburbs, and from the suburbs to the centre of a town. Dr. Miquel of the Montsouris Observatory in Paris, has very methodically examined the air for a series of years, and he reports that on high mountains and out at sea about one microbe may be found in a litre of air; at the summit of the Panthéon 200 microbes; in the park at Montsouris an average during the year of 455; in the Rue de Rivoli an average of 3910, and in the Hôtel de Dieu 79,000. Similar conditions have been shown to exist in this country by various observers. The most important agent existing in the atmosphere, both for the support of life and for purposes of purification, is oxygen. In one form or another this gas takes part in all the important operations of Nature, and it has this peculiarity—that certain conditions, as the passing of electricity through the air, the fall of rain, and the dashing of the sea along the shore, condense it into the extremely active form known as ozone. Another form equally as active is known technically by the name of peroxide of hydrogen, or “ant-ozone," and this body is more generally distributed than ozone is, as wherever vegetation is active and sunlight prevails peroxide is produced. The part played by vegetation in its relation to animal life is an extremely important one; it does not exist merely to supply food or to please the eye, although it admirably fulfils both these functions. It is generally known that plants utilize many waste products, organic and inorganic, in the soil; that they absorb from the air the deadly gas known as carbonic acid, which all animals expire by their breath, and which is a product of all forms of combustion, and that they restore oxygen to the air; but recently, through the researches of Kingzett and other chemists, we have learned that a more complex process also takes place. We are told that the odours possessed by all vegetable bodies are to a very great extent, if not entirely, due to the presence of essential oils. Under the influence of light these bodies have the power of absorbing oxygen, and of changing it into that form which we have already mentioned, viz., peroxide of hydrogen; thus, continually—at a more rapid rate in summer than in winter, and faster in direct sunlight than in the shade—is produced a body ready to act upon all animal and vegetable substances in a state of decay or decomposition, and that in a manner much more vigorously than ordinary air or even pure oxygen itself. It is indeed Nature's great disinfectant, for it not only purifies the air from noxious gases, but it is fatal to the great army of micro-organisms that breed putrefaction and the various infectious diseases. It is to the presence of the peroxide in large quantities that must be ascribed the wonderful improvement which often results to persons suffering from chest complaints from a sojourn in districts where pine and fir trees abound, for all the

* The death-rate varies with the twelfth root of the density of population.

« PreviousContinue »