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"The Late Dr. Snow"

Lancet
(24 July 1858): 103

To the Editor of the Lancet

Sir,--Your correspondent, Mr. Attree, suggests a tribute to the memory of Dr. Snow for his amiable qualities; and well do I remember the happy and truthful expression contained in a testimonial to his merit, written by an eminent member of our profession, "that he possessed a temper which nothing could provoke." These qualities, no doubt, rendered him dear to all who had the happiness of knowing him; but it is due to him that both the profession and the public should be made aware of his great labours in the cause of sanitary science. I believe that since the days of Jenner no physician has rendered more important service to mankind than Dr. Snow.

When his doctrine respecting the mode in which cholera is communicated becomes comprehended by secretaries of state and generals commanding-in-chief, as is the household word "vaccination," then "outbreaks" of cholera--that is, large numbers of persons attacked at once in a district (a phenomenon well known in the history of the disease) will become rare events.

If Dr. Snow ever inferred too much from the facts which he so laboriously collected, at least he perceived the fallacies of that theory, propounded by Mr. Chadwick, which referred to fetid odours as the dwelling-place of cholera (an approximation, indeed, to the truth): he confidently asserted that stench is not pestiferous, as declared by Act of Parliament--an opinion which is confirmed by the able paper of Dr. Barnes in your journal of last week. Surely stinks are nuisances so intolerable that they require no argument or pseudo-theory for their suppression. Let them be remedied on their own very obvious grounds, and at any cost.

Now, although the important views embraced by Dr. Snow are very difficult to study properly, although an ardent mind may have led him to the adoption of some inferences not quite warranted by the facts, which will retard their progress; and although ephemeral criticism has been uniformly against him, yet I venture confidently to predict, that the facts which have been bought to light by his indefatigable industry will prove to posterity that he was by far the most important investigator of the subject of cholera who has yet appeared. His premature death may possibly accelerate the study of the views which he has so ingeniously advanced.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant.

J. G. French, F.R.C.S.

Great Marlborough-street, July 1858.


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