New York Times article
takes us back to the bad old
days of the 19th century before plumbers and plumbing engineers worked
their magic in bringing sanitation to the masses.
brings to mind a long-ago article that appeared in the Spring 1984 edition of Foreign Affairs
, a magazine
widely read by foreign policy works in and outside of government. It was
written by the late Dr. Lewis Thomas, a world-renowned medical researcher and
then Chancellor of the Memorial
Center in New York.
titled “Scientific Frontiers and National Frontiers: A Look Ahead,” analyzed
the need for global cooperation in various scientific and technological
endeavors. I excerpted a few paragraphs in the May 1985 edition of the nascent Plumbing
magazine, which I served as editor, as follows:
is no question that our health has improved spectacularly in the past century,”
wrote Dr. Thomas. “One thing seems certain: it did not happen because of
medicine, or medical science, or even the presence of doctors.
of the credit should go to the plumbers and engineers of the Western world. The
contamination of drinking water by human feces was at one time the single
greatest cause of human disease and death for us: it remains so, along with
starvation and malaria, for the Third World.
Typhoid fever, cholera and dysentery were the chief threats to survival in the
early years of the 19th century in New York City, and when the plumbers and
sanitary engineers had done their work in the construction of our cities these
diseases began to vanish. Today, cholera is unheard of in this country, but it
would surely reappear if we went back to the old-fashioned ways of finding
water to drink.”
a tribute from a great man to the people serving this great industry of ours.