Tag Archives: The Chlorine Revolution

August 28, 1869: Birth of Allen Hazen; 1882: Death of John Rose Leal

August 28, 1869: Birth of Allen Hazen. “Allen Hazen (1869–1930) was an expert in hydraulics, flood control, water purification and sewage treatment. His career extended from 1888 to 1930 and he is, perhaps, best known for his contributions to hydraulics with the Hazen-Williams equation. Hazen published some of the seminal works on sedimentation and filtration. He was President of the New England Water Works Association and Vice President of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

During a year spent at MIT (1887-8), Hazen studied chemistry and came into contact with Professor William T. Sedgwick, Dr. Thomas M. Drown and fellow students George W. Fuller and George C. Whipple. As a direct result of his association with Dr. Thomas M. Drown, Hazen was offered his first job at the Lawrence Experiment Station in Lawrence, Massachusetts. LES was likely the first institute in the world devoted solely to investigations of water purification and sewage treatment. From 1888 to 1893, Hazen headed the research team at this innovative research institute into water purification and sewage treatment.

Hazen is most widely known for developing in 1902 with Gardner S. Williams the Hazen-Williams equation which described the flow of water in pipelines. In 1905, the two engineers published an influential book, which contained solutions to the Hazen-Williams equation for pipes of widely varying diameters. The equation uses an empirically derived constant for the “roughness” of the pipe walls which became known as the Hazen-Williams coefficient.

In 1908, Hazen was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to a panel of expert engineers to inspect the construction progress on the Panama Canal with President-Elect William H. Taft. Hazen specifically reported on the soundness of the Gatun Dam (an integral structure in the canal system), which he said was constructed of the proper materials and not in any danger of failure.

Hazen’s early work at the Lawrence Experiment Station established some of the basic parameters for the design of slow sand filters. One of his greatest contributions to filtration technology was the derivation of two terms for describing the size distribution of filter media: effective size and uniformity coefficient. These two parameters are used today to specify the size of filter materials for water purification applications. His first book, The Filtration of Public Water Supplies, which was published in 1895, is still considered a classic.

His first assignment as a sole practitioner in 1897 was the design of the filtration plant at Albany, New York. The plant was the first continuously operated slow sand filter plant in the U.S.

One of his early assignments was as consultant to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to determine the best method of providing a safe water supply from the Monongahela River. For decades, the City had been wracked with typhoid fever epidemics. At the time, mechanical filtration (or rapid sand filtration was just beginning to be understood as a treatment process. As a conservative engineer, Hazen recommended that the City install slow sand filters to remove both turbidity and harmful bacteria from its water supply. As early as 1904, Hazen recommended the filtration of the Croton water supply for New York City. As of 2013, a new filtration plant on that water supply is nearing completion.

Hazen received honorary degrees of Doctor of Science from both New Hampshire College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (1913) and Dartmouth College (1917). In 1915, he received the Norman Medal which is the highest honor given by the American Society of Civil Engineers for a technical paper that “makes a definitive contribution to engineering science.” He was selected as an Honorary Member of the American Water Works Association in 1930. In 1971, he was inducted into the AWWA Water Industry Hall of Fame with his friend and colleague, George W. Fuller.”

Commentary: This entry is part of the biographical entry for Hazen in Wikipedia that I wrote in June 2012. I did not know much about him until I wrote the article. He was truly an amazing engineer who excelled at everything that he was engaged in.

August 28, 1882: Death of John Rose Leal. John Rose Leal was born on October 20, 1823 (or possibly 1825 or 1827) in Meredith, Delaware County, New York. His parents were John Leal and Martha McLaury who were descended from early settlers of Delaware County, New York. There are records that John Rose Leal’s great-grandfather Alexander Leal was born in Scotland in 1740 and immigrated to the British colonies in North America, landing in New York City on April 13, 1774. On John R. Leal’s mother’s side, his ancestors came from Ireland and Scotland.

There is little information on John R. Leal’s early years. According to one source, he received his preliminary education at the Literary Institute, in Franklyn, Delaware County, New York and at the Delaware Academy in Delhi, New York.

John Rose Leal received his medical training under Dr. Almiran Fitch of Delhi, New York and completed his medical degree at Berkshire Medical College. Located in the westernmost regions of Massachusetts, Berkshire County, the medical college was in a remote part of the young country separated from the rest of the state by the Berkshire Mountains. The mission of Berkshire Medical College was to train doctors to serve the sparsely populated rural areas that were dominated by agriculture. Founded in 1822 as the Berkshire Medical Institution, the school had to overcome resistance from Harvard Medical School that objected to the establishment of another medical training facility in Massachusetts. With a student population of about 30 in the 1840s, a medical education was offered to students for the magnificent sum of $140 per year.

John Rose Leal received his medical degree in 1848 and shortly thereafter opened up a medical practice in Andes. Dr. Leal continued his education with a post-graduate course at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City—an institution that would figure prominently in one son’s education.

There is a limited amount information about his wife, Mary Elizabeth Laing, from historical records. Born in 1837, the fourth child of eight children, she was the daughter of Rev. James Laing of Andes, NY. She was born in Andes, NY, after the family moved there from Argyle, NY. Her father was the pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Andes.

John Rose Leal and Mary E. Laing were married in Andes on August 29, 1855. Mary E. Laing was only 18 when she married the successful country doctor. John L. Leal was born to the couple on May 5, 1868. Census records from 1860 show that another child was born to the couple about 1859 in Andes, William G. Leal. Another brother was born much later in Paterson, New Jersey, about 1870, Charles E. Leal. There are no records showing that William G. Leal survived into adulthood. Charles E. Leal lived to the age of 24 and died in 1894 in Paterson.

The simple rural life in Andes, New York was shattered by the Civil War in 1862 when the 144th Regiment, New York Volunteers was formed in Delaware County and the surrounding area. John R. Leal’s first appointment was as regimental surgeon and over the next three years he was promoted to surgeon at the brigade, division and corps levels. Toward the end of the war he held the title of Medical Director in the Department of the South. According to an obituary, Dr. Leal was wounded twice and was with his regiment at the battle of John’s Island.

The 144th Regiment was stationed on Folly Island in 1863 as part of the siege of Charleston, South Carolina. According to the history of the regiment, “very nearly every man in the Regiment got sick…with bad and unhealthy water to drink.” The only treatment at the time for the debilitating dysentery that overwhelmed the Regiment was the administration of “opium pills” by Dr. Leal. The pills did not cure anything but they made the recipients feel somewhat better. Dr. Leal became so ill that he received medical leave for a time, but it is clear from the records that he never fully recovered.

Dr. Leal was mustered out of the 144th Regiment on June 25, 1865 after which time he returned to his simpler life in Andes, New York. However, he brought a dreadful souvenir of the war home with him and he suffered with it for the next 17 years.

In one obituary, it was stated: “…his death, which resulted from an attack of peritonitis of an asthenic character, sequel to an attack of dysentery, which at the outset did not indicate an unusual degree of severity, but was undoubtedly aggravated by the chronic diarrhea from which he had been a sufferer more or less constantly since his retirement from the army.”

Another obituary was equally clear as to the cause of his death: “He never recovered from the effects of disease contracted on Folly Island, and this induced other complications, resulting in his death.”

Reference: McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

Commentary: Dr. John Rose Leal was the father of Dr. John L. Leal who was responsible for the first chlorination of a U.S. public water supply—see The Chlorine Revolution.

Reference: McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

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August 10, 1916: Sterilizing Water and Flushing Mains

August 10, 1916: Municipal Journal article. Sterilizing Water and Cleaning Mains. “In connection with the information concerning their water works furnished by more than six hundred officials and published in our June 1st issue, these officials also answered the questions: “Is the capacity of your mains diminished by corrosion?” “Do you clean them?” “If so, how and how often?” “Do you sterilize the water?” “If so, by what process?” Their answers are given in the table on the following pages.

These answers are given as furnished, and no attempt made to change them with a view to uniformity. For instance, some report sterilizing by “liquid chlorine,” others by “chlorine gas,” and some by “chlorine”; but we suppose that all refer to the same treatment. Also “hypochlorite,” “chloride of lime” and “bleach,” all probably refer to the same material.

In the answers concerning cleaning mains, quite a number report doing this by flushing or blowing out. This is generally believed to remove only sediment deposited in the mains, mostly that brought into them by the water, and to have no effect upon tuberculation or corrosion. A few, however, report “cleaning,” which refers in probably all cases to the actual removal by some application of force of tuberculation or other incrustation on the pipes.

It is interesting to note that, of the cities reporting, 96 employ some sterilizing agent, 53 of these using liquid chlorine, which is the latest form of applying chlorine for sterilizing purposes but from these figures appears to have become undoubtedly the most popular. The use of liquid chlorine or hypochlorite is reported from 33 states scattered over the entire country; and it is known that several cities use one or the other which failed to report it, some probably because of local popular prejudice against putting “chemicals” in the water supply.”

Commentary: Disinfection information in this article is fascinating on several levels. First, we see details of which cities were actually disinfecting their water supplies (and those that were not). We also read that there was STILL a fear of chemicals in drinking water even after the overwhelming evidence that typhoid fever and diarrheal diseases could be stopped by such a practice. Finally, this survey documents the conversion from chloride of lime to the use of liquid chlorine that was occurring during this period of water treatment history. Chloride of lime was first used on the Jersey City water supply, which started the disinfection craze (see my book, The Chlorine Revolution). However, the availability of liquid chlorine in pressurized cylinders and the ease of its application ultimately converted everyone to this newer technology.

July 30, 1982: Surgeon General Koop discusses fluoride; 1894: Jersey City’s Contaminated Water Supply

July 30, 1982: This letter is in response to your request that the Public Health Service (PHS) review the scientific aspects of the epidemiological studies related to the effects of fluoride ingested through drinking water and provide advice on the validity and significance of the findings relative to dental fluorosis.
On July 30, 1982, C. Everett Koop wrote the above paragraph in a letter to John W. Hernandez, Jr., Deputy Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA needed to re-assess and finalize interim drinking water standards set in 1975, shortly after the passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974. Fluoride was one of many compounds for which the agency needed to set an upper limit for safety. EPA had asked the Public Health Service to weigh in, and Surgeon General Koop was reporting back the findings of a committee his Chief Dental Officer had convened to conduct EPA’s requested review.

Fluoride, like chlorine, is in a unique position in drinking water: having benefits at low levels but adverse effects at higher levels. Public health professionals, and Surgeon Generals in particular, have advocated for adding low levels of fluoride to water in order to prevent tooth decay. Indeed, in his letter to Mr. Hernandez, Surgeon General Koop gave a strong endorsement of fluoridation, “I encourage the dental profession in communities which do not enjoy the benefits of an optimally fluoridated drinking water supply to exercise effective leadership in bringing the concentration to within an optimum level.” More such endorsements from Surgeon Generals can be found in “Is fluoride good for your teeth?” an article at the site Fluoride Exposed, at CDC’s fluoride and fluoridation page here, and at ADA’s fluoridation resources here.
Because we so often associate Surgeon Generals with this kind of promotion of adding fluoride to drinking water, and because we seem to forget that Surgeon Generals have also worked to make sure drinking water does not have too much fluoride in it, this quote in Surgeon General Koop’s letter is particularly interesting:
As one concerned about the total well-being of the individual and one dedicated in helping people avoid impediments to their reaching their maximum potential in society, I cannot condone the use of public water supplies that may cause undesirable cosmetic effects to teeth, just as I cannot condone the use of water supplies below the optimum concentration because of a diminished protection against dental caries.  Therefore, I encourage communities having water supplies with fluoride concentrations of over two times optimum to provide children up to age nine with water of optimum fluoride concentration to minimize the risk of their developing esthetically objectionable dental fluorosis.

The office of the Surgeon General currently works to ensure that Americans do not get too much or too little fluoride in drinking water. The most recent effort was by Surgeon General Vivek Murthy  who reviewed, endorsed, and introduced the Public Health Service’s final decision to lower the recommended level for fluoridation in 2015, from a range of 0.7-1.2 mg/L dependent on regional temperature to a single level (0.7 mg/L) for the entire country.

A copy of the original Koop letter is available here.

Acknowledgement:  Many thanks to Effie Greathouse for providing the excellent narration for this celebration of Dr. Koop’s letter.

July 30, 1894: New York Times Headline. Jersey City’s Foul Water; Sewage-Filled Passaic the Source of Its Supply. “Plenty of Good Drinking Water to be Had and Many Syndicates Ready to Furnish It — None, However, Has Influence Enough to Get a Contract — Tremendous Debt a Serious Obstacle, but Public Health Demands a Change. The people of this city are thoroughly satisfied that they have the worst drinking water to be found anywhere in the United States. This is no sudden conclusion of theirs. It is the result of a steady growth, born of an experience extending over eight or ten years.

When the Passaic River was first tapped as a source of supply, the water was pure. Dr. Chilton of New York and Prof. Horsford of Yale University, who made the analysis, pronounced it better than the water supplied to Philadelphia, New York, or Albany. But that was forty years ago, and the Passaic of 1854 was very different from the river of today.

Then the towns on its banks were merely hamlets. Paterson was only a village and Passaic and Belleville were mere dots on the map. None of them had any sewers to empty into the river, there were no factories along the banks to pollute the waters, and the fluid brought to Jersey City was limpid, clear and sparkling.

Paterson and Passaic are cities now, with extensive sewerage systems, and all the sewage of these two cities, with a population, probably, of 60,000, empties directly into the river. [Sewer Pipe, Water Pipe Death Spiral] In addition, there are many factories, mills, and dye works along the banks of the river, and all the refuse from these goes into the river along with the sewage, to further pollute the water.”

Commentary: The article goes on to catalogue the evils of the lower Passaic River as a source of supply. It would not be until 1899 that a contract was signed with Patrick H. Flynn to develop a new water supply 23 miles west of the city by building a dam on the Rockaway River forming Boonton Reservoir. It was to this water supply that Dr. John L. Leal added chlorine for the first time to disinfect drinking water for consumers. The story forms the basis for my book, The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives, which was published in 2013. The Sewer Pipe, Water Pipe Death Spiral was developed for the book and succinctly describes the water contamination problems of the late 19th century.

July 15, 1916: Death of Elie Metchnikoff

July 15, 1916: Death of Elie Metchnikoff, Nobel Prize winner. On May 16, 1845, [also listed as May 15] Elie Metchnikoff was born in a village near Kharkoff, Russia (about 350 miles northeast of Odessa in what is now the country of Ukraine). He studied natural sciences at the University of Kharkoff graduating after only two years. He attended a number of universities in Europe after his degree and finished his doctorate at the University of St. Petersburg. At the incredibly young age of 25, he was appointed Titular Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy at the University of Odessa. In 1884, he left Odessa for Italy after the assassination of Czar Alexander II.

Some of his earliest research was in the field of embryology where he connected structures in higher animals to similar structures in more primitive animals. After his move to Italy, he focused more on the study of disease.

Metchnikoff was a volatile personality who survived two suicide attempts. After his first wife died in 1873, he attempted to take his own life with an overdose of morphine. In 1880, Elie Metchnikoff’s second wife contracted a severe case of typhoid fever but survived. In despair, Metchnikoff injected himself with infected material causing relapsing fever. Some have attempted to explain his actions as an experiment to see if the disease could be transmitted by blood. He became very ill but survived.

In his work, Elie Metchnikoff used the microscope extensively. However, his eyesight was poor from birth and he further damaged his eyesight in his early years of study due to over exertion. As a result, he was unable to use a microscope during the period 1867 to 1882. Upon resuming his microscopic studies, Metchnikoff, like other scientists of his day, was interested in viewing microbes and microscopic structures of simple animals under high magnification. However, his interest led him to the development of a description of what was eating the microbes.

In 1882 in a laboratory set up in a drawing room in Messina, Italy, he observed the mobile cells in a transparent starfish larva. He noticed that when he introduced a thorn into the larva, specialized cells in the larva attacked the foreign invader. His later studies showed that specialized cells would attack anything foreign introduced under the dermis of the starfish and other animals. He also observed that white blood cells attacked, killed and consumed bacteria and other foreign invaders of the human body. The specialized cells were labeled phagocytes and the process phagocytosis. In humans, this action was part of the inflammation process caused by white blood cells resulting from a body’s defense against infection. He first published his findings in 1883. Metchnikoff’s discovery and subsequent fame generated a number of conflicts with his colleagues, many of which he initiated.

In 1888, Metchnikoff left Russia and all of the conflicts and problems that plagued him there and went to work for the world’s foremost bacteriologist, Louis Pasteur. He worked at the Pasteur Institute until he died in 1916. His publication of Lectures on the Comparative Pathology of Inflammation in 1891 and its English translation in 1893 gained him world-wide acclaim. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1908 which he shared with Paul Ehrlich for his work in phagocytosis.

Metchnikoff’s discovery has been recognized as the first demonstration of a human body’s protective process against disease. His work provided part of the foundation of the general field of immunology. During the 1880s others were studying the body’s ability to ward off disease. Metchnikoff’s theory while brilliant did not explain how a person retained the ability to be exposed to a disease without any effect subsequent to an initial infection. Behring’s work on the humoralist theory of immunity appeared to be in direct conflict with Metchnikoff’s but subsequent research would show that they were both part of a larger understanding of immunity. Behring was responsible for discovering the diphtheria anti-toxin and promoting its widespread use.

In his well-known book on public health, which was published in 1902, William T. Sedgwick explored the bodies defenses against microorganisms and noted Elie Metchnikoff’s theory of immunity. “…starting with the [now] well-known fact that the white blood-cells are eating –cells (or phagocytes) and readily devour yeast-cells, bacteria-cells, etc., [Metchnikoff] made elaborate and important investigations tending to show that…the battle is really between the white blood-cells and the microbes…” Sedgwick was interested in the evolving field of immunology because of his beliefs in his theory of vital resistance.

Metchnikoff was married twice. His first marriage to Ludmilla Federovitch lasted only four years (1869 to 1873). She died of tuberculosis (or typhoid fever) in Madeira. He married Olga Belokopitova in 1875 and she stayed with him for the rest of his life. She was devoted to him and his research and collaborated with him on his work.

Metchnikoff died on July 15, 1916 at the age of 71.

Decades later, in the early 1980s, two research teams showed definitively that white blood cells (phagocytic leucocytes) kill microbiological invaders of the human body through a process involving the production of hypochlorous acid and chloramines at the cellular level. Both of these chemicals are toxic to invading organisms. Online videos demonstrating the process of phagocytosis are helpful in understanding the mechanisms. A figure and the accompanying text in a recently published book on immunology illustrate the reaction mechanisms that produce hypochlorous acid and chloramines.

John L. Leal would have had an easier time convincing the New Jersey Chancery Court that adding chlorine to drinking water was an excellent tool for killing the typhoid bacillus if he had known that cells in the human body use the same chemical as part of an innate mechanism for defense against pathogens. The information would also have been of great help to engineers and city leaders who later added chlorine and chloramines to drinking water in the face of continuing public chemophobia.

Reference: McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

July 12, 1868: Birth of Frank S. Wesbrook

July 12, 1868: Birth of Frank S. Wesbrook. In 1909, Frank F. Wesbrook was Professor of Pathology and Bacteriology at the University of Minnesota and Director of the State Board of Health Laboratories of Minnesota. He obtained a bachelors degree at the University of Manitoba in 1887 and several advanced degrees from the same institution in 1890 including that of doctor of medicine. In the 1890s, he spent several years at Cambridge University in England and at an academic institution in Marburg, Germany researching bacteriology topics especially those related to cholera. Along with George W. Fuller, he was an early member of the APHA committee developing standardized bacteriological methods in the early 1900s. He was recruited for the second trial of the Jersey City lawsuit by John L. Leal in Winnipeg in August 1908 at the APHA meeting. Of particular note, Dr. Wesbrook (often misspelled in various documents as Westbrook) was President of the APHA in 1905, the year preceding the presidency of Franklin C. Robinson. In years past, he had conducted studies on the quality of water supplies for many cities in Minnesota and Canada.

Reference: McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

Born in Oakland, Ontario, Wesbrook received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from the University of Manitoba in 1887 and 1888. He received his M.D. and C.M. degrees from the University of Manitoba and McGill College. From 1891 to 1893, he was a Professor of Pathology at the University of Manitoba. From 1893 to 1895, he studied pathology at Cambridge University.

In 1895, he was appointed director of the Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Hygiene at the University of Minnesota. His chief work was in Bacteriology relating to public health. He helped in diphtheria research and was in favor of chlorine sterilization of water. He was also a Director of the Minnesota Board of Health Laboratories and was a member of the Minnesota State Board of Health.

In 1906, he was appointed Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School. In 1913, he was appointed the first president of the University of British Columbia. He served until his death in 1918.”

June 16, 1858: Death of Dr. John Snow

Dr. John Snow

Dr. John Snow (March 15, 1813–June 16, 1858) is famous for the Broad Street Pump episode but he accomplished so much more than that. He was first and foremost a physician who trained in England in the early part of the 19th century. He made significant contributions to the development of anesthesia and he is considered by many to be the Father of Modern Epidemiology.

The story of Dr. John Snow and how he discovered the cause of a cholera epidemic in the Golden Square neighborhood of London in 1854 has reached almost mythical proportions in public health literature.  Three excellent books describe Snow’s life and the details of the Broad Street Pump incident. (Hempel 2007; Johnson 2006; Vinten-Johansen et al. 2003)

Snow was born on March 15, 1813 in the City of York.  He served his medical-apothecary apprenticeship in Newcastle-on-Tyne with later assistantships in the villages of Burnop Field and Pateley Bridge.  In 1836 at the age of 23, Snow moved to London to complete his medical education.  He qualified as a licensed apothecary in 1838 and a surgeon with a London practice in October 1838.  With an office in the parish of Saint Anne-Soho, Snow would have a medical career of only two-dozen years before he was struck down at the age of 45.

At the age of 17, Snow became a vegetarian and soon thereafter committed to only drinking boiled water or, preferably, distilled water as a result of the writings of John Frank Newton.  He embraced abstinence from alcohol around 1836.  Snow was known to be quiet, frugal and energetic, a man of integrity and a surgeon with an indifferent bedside manner.  He refused to dispense pills and other medicines just because his patients wanted them.  He was able to make a living and acquire some success as a physician when he perfected the administration of chloroform as an anesthetic used during surgeries and infant deliveries.  He even delivered two babies while attending Queen Victoria.

He never married.  His solitary existence and his abstinent personal habits allowed him more time than his colleagues to develop his medical practice and enabled him to pursue his intense interest in determining the cause of cholera epidemics.

Snow gave away all of the knowledge he developed.  He made it available for free to any doctor who wanted it.  No attempt was made by him to patent his many devices for dispensing chloroform and ether. As a result, physicians hired him to use his skill with their patients and he became famous for this.

One overriding personal characteristic of this ascetic doctor of the Victorian era was courage.  He worked hard to develop his ideas and used the scientific method and laboratory investigations to establish his case in whatever area he was working.  Once he became convinced of the rightness of his position, nothing could dislodge him.  It was only his tremendous courage that made it possible for him to go up against the establishment and argue that something other than foul air was causing the deadly cholera. (McGuire 2013)

Snow’s determination of the cause of the cholera epidemic near the Broad Street pump and his ability, albeit temporary, to have the pump handle removed is worthy of recounting here.  The 1854 cholera epidemic struck the Golden Square neighborhood of London with particular viciousness. It began on August 31 and started to wind down about September 7, however, many died over the next few days. Well over 500 people died during this epidemic in a small neighborhood. Snow tracked the numbers of deaths in the neighborhood, and it was clear to him from the pattern of death that the Broad Street pump was the center of the affliction and most likely the source of infection. On September 7, Snow convinced the Board of Governors and Directors of the Poor of St. James Parish that the epidemic was being caused by water from the pump. The next day the commissioners ordered that the pump handle be removed. Structural defects in the Broad Street well sump and the cross-connection to the nearby house sewer were not corrected until 1855.

Incredibly, the residents of Broad Street petitioned the Commissioners to reopen the well that had caused hundreds of deaths in their neighborhood.  This was partly due to the official linkage of the severe, isolated epidemic in the Broad Street area to miasma (foul air). In an amazing footnote to history, the commissioners voted 10 to 2 to reopen the well on September 26, 1855, one year and one week after the last deaths during the epidemic.  According to contemporary reports, there was much rejoicing in the street that the Broad Street well was reopened.  The polluted well was not permanently closed until the cholera epidemic of 1866.

With the emphasis on the Broad Street pump episode in most historical accounts, his pioneering work in epidemiology based on cholera occurrence in a district of London served by two water supplies usually gets lost.  Snow was able to demonstrate that homes in areas of London that were being served contaminated water from the tidal portion of the Thames Estuary were far more likely to have cholera deaths than the homes served water from an unpolluted upland source. He believed that dumping sewage into a water supply perpetuated the death spiral caused by cholera and other waterborne diseases. Snow had strong opinions on sewers and drinking water systems.

“Snow who distilled his own drinking water, agreed that London water should be improved, but he considered the abolition of cesspools and the increasing preference for water closets a sanitary disaster…water closets connected to sewer lines that emptied into rivers also used for metropolitan drinking water were, in his mind, primarily an efficient means of recycling the cholera agent through the intestines of victims as rapidly as possible.  Sanitary reforms were needed, but flushing the waste of a town into the same river by which one quenched ones’ thirst seemed sheer stupidity.” (Vinten-Johansen et al 2003)

Dr. John Snow died of a stroke on June 16, 1858, 42 days after the birth of John L. Leal who grew to be a physician who carried on Snow’s concern about the ability of contaminated water to spread disease.  If the discoveries of Dr. John Snow had been accepted and followed by engineers, sewer planners and drinking water providers beginning in 1854, millions of deaths would have been avoided.  Snow was only one person trying to overcome the juggernaut of the miasma theory.  He was far ahead of his time.

References:

Hempel, Sandra. 2007. The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump: John Snow and the Mystery of Cholera. Los Angeles, Ca.: University of California.

Johnson, Steven. 2006. The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic and How It Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World, New York City, N.Y.: Riverhead Books.

McGuire, Michael J. (2013). The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

Vinten-Johansen, Peter, Howard Brody, Nigel Paneth, Stephen Rachman and Michael Rip. 2003. Cholera, Chloroform, and the Science of Medicine. New York City, N.Y.: Oxford University Press.

June 15, 1934: Death of George W. Fuller

George Warren Fuller, 1903, 35 years old

June 15, 1934: Death of George Warren Fuller in New York City. George Warren Fuller was, quite simply, the greatest sanitary engineer of his time, and his time was long—lasting from 1895 to 1934.  In truth, we have not seen his like since.  How did he reach the pinnacle of his field?  What early influences led him on his path? There is a biography of Fuller on Wikipedia that I wrote which summarizes his life from a “neutral point of view.” The material below is taken in part from Chapter 7 of The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight To Save Lives. By design, it gives more of a personal flavor to his life.

George Warren Fuller was born in Franklin, Massachusetts on December 21, 1868—ten years after the death of Dr. John Snow and ten years after the birth of Dr. John L. Leal.  He was the son of George Newell Fuller and Harriet Martha Craig. There is not much known about his father who was simply described as a farmer.  His father was born on the Fuller family property in Franklin, Massachusetts on November 22, 1819.

Harriet Martha Craig was born on February 2, 1841, grew up near Leicester, Massachusetts, and attended Mount Holyoke College, but she did not graduate.  Her final year at the institution was 1865.  They were married on November 15, 1866 when he was 46 and she was only 25.  They settled down in the Franklin-Medway area of rural Massachusetts for a quiet life of farming on the ancestral Fuller family property.  They had two children, George W. and Mabel B. who was born in 1876.  We know that George kept in touch with his younger sister in later years.  She married Carl W. DeVoe and moved to Jerome, Idaho. George owned a ranch in Idaho and must have visited her there.

Place names in Massachusetts have changed over the past several hundred years as the land area covering certain towns changed due to the expansion and contraction of town boundaries or as a result of new towns being carved off from old ones.  Towns that figured prominently in Fuller’s history, Dedham, Franklin and West Medway, all describe the same general area, which is about 10-25 miles southwest of Boston.

We know only a little about his early education.  One report observed:

“George Warren Fuller was at the head of his class when he attended the Dedham schools. His scholarship was, of course, a source of great satisfaction to his mother. At sixteen he passed the examination for entrance at MIT but, his father having died a few weeks before, it was thought best for him to have a fourth year in high school….”

After his father’s death on May 3, 1885, his mother moved 2,500 miles away to Claremont, California where she lived until she died in 1915.  George must have felt that he had lost both parents at the same time.  We do not know if he was looking for a stable family life to replace the one he had lost, but we do know that he married when he was only two years out of high school, in 1888.  His first wife, Lucy Hunter was born in October 1869 and died far too young on March 18, 1895. Lucy came from a family who immigrated to America from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  Her father was born about 1830 and listed his occupation as farmer.  Her mother, Sarah, was born about 1845.  The farming family had seven children, three boys and four girls.  They must have moved to Boston from New Brunswick sometime between 1877 and 1880.  The youngest boy, Harry, was born in New Brunswick about 1877. I recently heard from a descendant of Lucy Fuller who was researching her family. According to her second cousin, three times removed, the family was sailing from Northern Ireland to Philadelphia in 1767 when their ship was wrecked off of Nova Scotia. Lucy’s family eventually made it to Boston while many of the other Hunters moved on to Ontario, Canada.

In 1880, the U.S. census showed that her family lived in Boston at 218 Bennington Street, which is now near Boston Logan International Airport and was located near cultivated land in the late 1800s.  The address is about three miles from the MIT campus, as the crow flies.

Lucy was 18 years old and Fuller was 20 years old when they were married.  Fuller was only in his second year at university (1886-1890).  They had one son, Myron E. Fuller who was born in Boston on June 4, 1889. We do not know much about the marriage, but we do know that George W. Fuller was issued a passport on May 2, 1890 for his trip to Germany and his continued studies. There is no record that Lucy or Myron applied for a passport or accompanied Fuller to Germany.  Massachusetts death records listed her cause of death as “enteritis” which was a general term used for diseases caused by the ingestion of pathogens from food or water.  The death records listed her as “married” which meant that her marriage to Fuller was not dissolved prior to her death. There is no evidence that George W. Fuller lived with her and their son after 1889.

From a 1910 census report, it is clear that Myron lived with his father in Summit, New Jersey.  One recorded connection we know of between Myron and his father was mentioned in the preface of Fuller’s 1912 book, Sewage Disposal. Fuller acknowledged Myron (who was 22 years old at the time) for creating the index to the book.  One source showed that Fuller and McClintock employed Myron from 1911 to 1916 and again from 1919 until at least 1922. In 1918, Myron registered for the draft and listed his occupation as civil engineer. The same reference showed Myron working for the City of Philadelphia in the Bureau of Surveys—the same occupation as his great-great-great-great grandfather, Ensign Thomas Fuller.  He lived in Philadelphia with his wife and one child.

While Fuller was in Louisville working on the filtration investigations, he met Caroline L. Goodloe who came from a fine, old Louisville family.  In November 1899, Fuller married her in Louisville. They were both 31 years old when they were married.  In May of 1900, husband and wife went on a trip to Europe—a somewhat delayed honeymoon. Their son, Kemp Goodloe Fuller, was born on March 10, 1901. On November 11, 1903, while living in New York City, their second son, Asa W. Fuller was born.

We know from records published in the annual report of the APHA and other sources that Fuller had his offices in New York City at 220 Broadway for many years beginning in 1899, which was the same address given by Allen Hazen for his offices for a short period of time.

Tragically, Caroline Goodloe Fuller died in June 21, 1907, while George W. Fuller was most heavily engaged in numerous water and sewage disposal projects all over the U.S.  At her death, George W. Fuller was living at 309 West 84th Street in New York City with his wife and their sons.  She was 38 years old.

The 1910 Census form showed that Fuller was living at 160 Boulevard, Summit, New Jersey with Alice C. Goodlow (sic) who was identified as his sister-in-law, Mary L. Goodlow (sic) identified as his mother-in-law and his three sons Myron, Kemp G. and Asa.  George’s in-laws had come up from Louisville to help him raise the boys.  Also listed at the same residence was an interesting guest, Grace F. Thomson, 43, born in China of English ancestry and claiming a trade of metal working.  In addition, there were three servants (two Irish and one Greek) making it a full and busy household.  The census form showed him as widowed, so by 1910 he had not remarried.

We know from several accounts, that George Warren Fuller was, in many ways, a big man.  Physically, he was tall.  An account by a colleague said that he was over six feet tall, but passport application forms that Fuller filled out showed that his height was 5 feet 10 inches. Pictures of him from 1903 until at least 1928 showed that he was, to use a descriptor from the time, stout. One description had him at 285 pounds with a size 18 collar.

His hair was dark brown and, in the style of the day, slicked down and parted in the middle.  As time marched on, he began to gray at the temples and then the gray seemed to take over his thinning head of hair.  He was clean-shaven except for his days in Louisville during the filtration studies, when he sported a bushy mustache.  He had blue eyes that could bore into someone who did not please him and twinkle when he was trying to charm a lady.  The round spectacles that he always wore did not detract from the intensity of his blue eyes.

George Warren Fuller Comes to California…in 2012

On April 3, 2013, I gave a talk at the California Nevada Section Conference of the American Water Works Association. I teamed up with John Marchand who gave a talk on Dr. John Snow of Broad Street Pump fame. We made a pact to give our talks in costume, which incredibly we both followed through on. Below are links to my talk broken up into three parts (YouTube restrictions). It describes Fuller’s life and the first use of chlorine on the Jersey City water supply in 1908.

Part 1:  http://youtu.be/37WZkp5148w

Part 2:  http://youtu.be/rsicrBvVMc4

Part 3:  http://youtu.be/n6PuOvjjQMI

Commentary: This article originally appeared on my other blog, safedrinkingwaterdotcom.