Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
He was born at Longsight, near Manchester. Called to the bar without any independent means, he sought to support himself by literary work, and his essays in the Westminster Review (mainly on different methods of applying scientific knowledge to the business of government) brought him to the notice of Jeremy Bentham, who engaged him as a literary assistant and left him a large legacy. In 1832 he was employed by the royal commission appointed to inquire into the operation of the poor laws, and in 1833 he was made a full member of that body.
In conjunction with Nassau William Senior he drafted the famous report of 1834 which procured the reform of the old poor law. His special contribution was the institution of the union as the area of administration. He favoured a much more centralised system of administration than that which was adopted, and he later complained that the reform of 1834 was fatally marred by the rejection of his views, which contemplated the management of poor law relief by salaried officers controlled from a central board, the boards of guardians acting merely as inspectors. In 1834 he was appointed secretary to the poor law commissioners. Unwilling to administer an act of which he was largely the author in the way he thought best, he found it hard to get along with his superiors, and the disagreement contributed to the dissolution of the poor law commission in 1846.
Chadwick's chief contribution to political controversy was his belief in entrusting certain departments of local affairs to trained and selected experts, instead of to representatives elected on the principle of local self-government. While still officially connected with the poor law he had taken up the question of sanitation in conjunction with Dr Thomas Southwood Smith, and their joint efforts produced a salutary improvement in the public health. His report on The Sanitary Condition of the Laboring Population (1842) is a valuable historical document. He was a commissioner of the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers in London from 1848 to 1849; he was also a commissioner of the Board of Health from its establishment in 1848 to its abolition in 1854, when he retired on a pension, and occupied the remainder of his life in voluntary contributions to sanitary and economical questions.
In January 1884 he was appointed as the first president of the Association of Public Sanitary Inspectors (now the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health ). In 1889 he was knighted. He served in his post until his death in East Sheen in Surrey.
See a volume on The Evils of Disunity in Central and Local Administration ... and the New Centralization for the People, by Edwin Chadwick (1885); also The Health of Nations, a Review of the Works of Edwin Chadwick, with a Biographical Introduction, by Sir B. W. Richardson (1887).
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