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James B Russell

Mitchell Library, The Bailie

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Keywords: City Poorhouse, diseases, doctors, fever hospitals, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Local Government Board for Scotland, Medical Officers of Health, physicians and surgeons, pollution, public health, sanitation, slums

James Burn Russell (1837-1904) was a doctor and Glasgow's first full-time Medical Officer of Health.

Early experiences at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, the City Poorhouse and as Physician Superintendent of Glasgow's fever hospitals convinced Russell of the need for improvements in living conditions as a first step towards effective preventive medicine. His appointment as full-time Medical Officer of Health in 1872 signalled a crusade to improve public health in Glasgow which lasted for over a quarter of a century until his appointment as Medical Member of the Local Government Board for Scotland in 1898.

Russell succeeded in persuading the Town Council to play an active role in improving sanitation, pollution control and slum clearance in what he described as a "semi-asphyxiated city". In doing so he often incurred the wrath of vested interests. Reforms such as compulsory notification of infectious diseases helped reduce the city's death rate dramatically, which in turn established Russell's world-wide reputation as a public health pioneer.

Reference: Mitchell Library, GC 920.04 BAI

Reproduced with the permission of Glasgow City Council, Libraries Information and Learning



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