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Reasonable UseThe People, the Environment, and the State, New England 1790-1930$
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John T. Cumbler

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195138139

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195138139.001.0001

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Health, State Medicine, and Henry Ingersoll Bowditch The Radical Approach

Health, State Medicine, and Henry Ingersoll Bowditch The Radical Approach

(p.103) 6 Health, State Medicine, and Henry Ingersoll Bowditch The Radical Approach
Reasonable Use

John T. Cumbler

Oxford University Press

On September 15, 1869, Massachusetts governor Andrew appointed seven members to the state board of health. The men appointed to that board had a new vision of medicine and the roles of science and the state in protecting health. For these men, medicine should do more than just cure; it must also prevent illness. Their understanding of illness was expansive, and it led them to a concern about filth and pollution. They also came to believe that for science and medicine to perform their new role in society, they needed the backing and power of the state. On September 22, the board met for the first time, electing George Derby as secretary and Henry Ingersoll Bowditch as chair. Bowditch was a logical choice for chair. In addition to being one of the region’s leading doctors, he came from a respected Boston family, and he held the professorship of clinical medicine at Harvard School of Medicine. He was vice president of the American Medical Association (later he would be president) and the author of several scientificjournal articles. Bowditch served as a medical volunteer to the Union army and lost a son in battle. Moreover, it had been his idea to form a state board of health. In a speech before the Massachusetts Medical Society in 1862, Bowditch argued that medicine should serve the people. To do so required the creation of a state board of health, “one that eventually will be of more service . . . to the inhabitants of this state . . . by [its] united and persistent efforts to increase the state authority.” Bowditch was not the only one to advocate for a state board. Dr. Edward Jarvis, a well known sanitary reformer, had as well, and along with Bowditch, he pushed the idea, only to have it fail in the legislative house in April of 1866 as “inexpedient,” despite Governor Andrew’s endorsement. Three years later, a typhoid epidemic in western Massachusetts encouraged state representatives from the Connecticut River Valley and farther west to back a bill for a state board.

Keywords:   Boston Courier, Concord River, Fugitive Slave Law, Hockanum River, Merrimack River, Park River

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