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Hygeia: a healthy city

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 22 September 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5198
  1. Wendy Moore, freelance writer and author, London
  1. wendymoore{at}

    “Hell is a city,” wrote the poet Shelley. And countless city dwellers, from the inhabitants of ancient Athens, battling plague, to the residents of 21st century Toronto, barricading themselves against severe acute respiratory syndrome, would agree. Ever since the first clustering of humans into tightly knit communities unleashed waves of infectious diseases, citizens have bemoaned their urban environment.

    Yet the idea of a healthy city is not just a utopian dream. Or so the physician and public health reformer Benjamin Ward Richardson (1828-96) insisted when he unveiled his vision of Hygeia, a City of Health to the Social Science Association in 1875.

    Impelled to a career in medicine by the …

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