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November 25, 1974

A History of Public Health in New York City 1866-1966

Author Affiliations

American Medical Association Chicago


by John Duffy, 690 pp, $20, Russell Sage Foundation, 1974.

JAMA. 1974;230(8):1203. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03240080077043

In 1866, the Metropolitan Board of Health was created in New York to succeed the prior agencies that had proved totally inadequate. The year 1966, marking the centenary, provides a natural terminus for a history of public health in New York City. The story is indeed a fabulous one and Professor Duffy, in the second volume of his epochal work, tells it well.

The book covers a vast scope. He brings together the medical, social, political, and economic aspects, and weaves all these into a tremendous tapestry. The pollution of today, which now arouses so much agitation, seems almost trivial compared with conditions just over a century ago; and the chicanery and corruption obtaining at that time make dishonest public officials today seem only like naughty children.

Duffy tells the story of growth and change and the challenges that demanded some sort of response. Increasing population produced new economic, social,