Ernest Hart (medical journalist)
Hart was born in London, the son of a Jewish dentist. He was educated at the City of London school, and became a student at St Georges hospital. In 1856 he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, making a specialty of diseases of the eye. He was appointed ophthalmic surgeon at St Mary's hospital at the age of 28, and occupied various other posts, introducing into ophthalmic practice some modifications since widely adopted. His name, too, is associated with a method of treating popliteal aneurism, which he was the first to use in Great Britain.
His real life-work, however, was as a medical journalist, beginning with the Lancet in 1857. He was appointed editor of the British Medical Journal on 11 August 1866. During this time the British Medical Journal's harsh criticism of Isaac Baker Brown lead to the complete destruction of Brown's career. As editor Hart can be held accountable in part for this (as can the editor before him, William Orlando Markham). His campaigning editorials could be vicious. They were usually sententious and often self-congratulatory.
On 22 November 1866 Hart was appointed as a poorlaw inspector as his colleague William Orlando Markham rejected the position. He took a leading part in the exposures which led to the inquiry into the state of London work-house infirmaries, and to the reform of the treatment of sick poor throughout England, and the Infant Life Protection Act of 1872, aimed at the evils of baby-farming, was largely due to his efforts. The record of his public work covers nearly the whole field of sanitary legislation during the last thirty years of his life.
He had a hand in the amendments of the Public Health and of the Medical Acts, always promoting the medical profession above others in the public health field; in the measures relating to notification of infectious disease, to vaccination, to the registration of plumbers; in the improvement of factory legislation; in the remedy of legitimate grievances of Army and Navy medical officers; in the removal of abuses and deficiencies in crowded barrack schools; in denouncing the sanitary shortcomings of the Indian government, particularly in regard to the prevention of cholera.
His work on behalf of the British Medical Association is shown by the increase from 2,000 to 19,000 in the number of members, and the growth of the British Medical Journal from 20 to 64 pages, during his editorship. From 1872 to 1897 he was chairman of the Associations Parliamentary Bill Committee.
Hart was also editor and proprietor of The Sanitary Record for a period, and chairman of the National Health Society.
In 1880, Hart authored the book The Truth About Vaccination. It refuted the arguments made by anti-vaccinators. Each anti-vaccination allegation was disproved with medical and statistical evidence. Hart demonstrated from a vast body of evidence the advantages of how a vaccinated person can resist an attack of smallpox, compared to those un-vaccinated.
Hart married his first wife, Rosetta Levy, in 1855. He married his second wife, in 1872, Alice Marion Rowland, the sister of social reformer Henrietta Barnett. Rowland had herself studied medicine in London and Paris, and was no less interested than her husband in philanthropic reform. She was most active in her encouragement of Irish cottage industries, and was the founder of the Donegal Industrial Fund.
- Holmes, T. (1898). Ernest Hart, M.R.C.S., D.C.L., Editor Of The British Medical Journal, Formerly Chairman Of The Parliamentary Bills Committee Of The British Medical Association. The British Medical Journal 1 (1933): 175-186.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hart, Ernest". Encyclopædia Britannica. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 30.
- Anonymous. (1880). Notes On Books. The British Medical Journal 1 (1004): 484.
- "Hart, Ernest Abraham". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/12475. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
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