Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Bad sanitation and antivaccination

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e903 (Published 15 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e903
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Few causes in the 19th century were more popular than that of antivaccination. When vaccination, held by many to be medically wrong, was made compulsory, it called forth widespread opposition and even civil disobedience. The antivaccination literature was vast, and among my small collection of the genre is a peculiar book published in 1892 by John Pickering, fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, called Which? Sanitation and Sanitary Remedies or Vaccination and the Drug Treatment?

The author starts with an admission that makes him a hostage to fortune: “This book is unsatisfactory to me . . . Book-making is not my forte.” Among other peculiarities is the following lukewarm endorsement from Florence Nightingale: “You do me too much honour. I …

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