Engineering & Technology

Ballard, [Edward] | Report in Respect of The Enquiry as to Effluvium Nuisances

  • First and only edition of this rare and important report on the health effects of industrial sewage in London. WorldCat locates only eight institutional copies, and there are none in auction records.

    Edward Ballard (1820-1897) was one of the generation of practitioners who professionalised the field of epidemiology following John Snow’s work on cholera in the 1850s. He earned his MD at University College London in 1844, and spent some time in private practice before being appointed Islington’s medical officer of health (MOH) in 1856, serving for fifteen years as “one of the most assiduous” and “most outpsoken” members of the Metropolitan Association of Medical Officers of Health. “During this time, Ballard honed and tweaked inductive epidemiological methods, providing a model for epidemiologists of his time... Ballard gave up life as an MOH in 1871; by then, he was known as ‘among the foremost representatives of English sanitary knowledge and practice’” (Steere-Williams, “Edward Ballard the Practice of Epidemiology in the 19th-Century United Kingdom”, American Journal of Public Health, November 2018).

    At age fifty he joined the Medical Department of the Local Government Board and “spent the next—and last—20 years of his life working what he called ‘out-of-doors’ conducting outbreak investigations throughout Britain... From 1871, Ballard studied the etiology of cholera, typhoid fever, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and infantile diarrhea. He investigated smallpox vaccination—and revaccination—and a gamut of urban-industrial pollutants. He worked alongside many leaders in British public health” (Steere-Williams).

    Prompted by a Parliamentary investigation by the Committee on Noxious Business, Ballard was tasked with conducting an extensive study of industrial waste. Beginning in 1875, he visited local industries throughout the UK, taking notes on the conditions of factories, the surrounding neighbourhoods, and the health of locals. He noted the immediate effects of noxious smells on those who encountered them, reporting the way that certain odours stuck tenaciously to his clothing after only a short exposure. But he was unable to find evidence that the waste and odours themselves were the cause of illness.

    “This was a difficult position to be in... The difficulty was in making the case for sanitary reform: condemning filthy industrial factories while at the same time concluding that bad smells did not directly cause disease... Ballard was not blindsided by the potential long-term health-related effects of industry. Perhaps, he argued, the immediate effects of breathing noxious smells were localized to headache or vomiting, but the more serious health effects came months or years later. He could prove bodily discomfort, or temporary functional disturbance, but not the shortening of life. Ballard’s conclusions would not be validated until well after his lifetime, yet by the early 1880s he saw the path forward: scientific knowledge, money, and regulation” (Steere-Williams).

  • ...Arising in Connection with Various Manufacturing and Other Branches of Industry. London: Knight & Co.; P. S. King; printed under the Superintendence of her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1882.

    Tall quarto. Later red half skiver library binding, red cloth sides, five raised bands to spine, green label. 25 plates of which 14 are folding and 12 are chromolithographic. Shelf number in white on the spine, 20th-century library ink stamps to the front pastedown and front blank, older library stamp to the title, portion of the printed price on the title marked out in blue pencil (probably contemporary). Binding worn and marked, the skiver darkened, contents tanned, E2 folded back due to a manufacturing flaw making the corner too large, short closed tear to the title and a small number of others to contents, which are brittle. Good condition.