International Sanitary Conferences

The International Sanitary Conferences were a series of 14 conferences, the first of them organized by the French Government in 1851 to standardize international quarantine regulations against the spread of cholera, plague, and yellow fever. In total 14 conferences took place from 1851 to 1938; the conferences played a major role in the formation of the World Health Organization in 1948.


The outbreak of the Second cholera pandemic in 1829 prompted European Governments to appoint medical missions to investigate the causes of the epidemic. Among others, the Royal Academy of Medicine of Paris in June 1831 sent Auguste Gérardin and Paul Gaimard on medical mission to Russia, Prussia, and Austria.[1]

Later the Minister of Commerce of France appointed the Secretary of the Conseil supérieur de la santé, P. de. Ségur-Dupeyron, with the task of creating a report on the sanitary regulations of the Mediterranean countries. The report, published in 1834, pointed to the differing quarantine requirements among the countries and proposed to convene an international conference to standardise quarantine requirements against exotic diseases.[2]


# Venue Year Notes
Paris 1851 The pioneer movement.
Paris 1859 Indecision time.
Istanbul 1866 Discussion and common agreement on the propagation cause of cholera.
Vienna 1874
Washington 1881 First conference in which the United States participated.[3]:125
Rome 1885
Venice 1892 The first International Sanitary Convention adopted.
Dresden 1893
Paris 1894
10  Venice 1897
11  Paris 1903
12  Paris 1911–1912
13  Paris 1926
14  Paris 1938

Paris, 1851Edit

The first International Sanitary Conference opened in Paris on July 23, 1851. A total of twelve countries participated including Austria, Great Britain, Greece, Portugal, Russia, Spain, France, Turkey, and the four Italian Powers of Papal States, Sardinia, Tuscany, and the Two Sicilies, each country being represented by a pair of a physician and a diplomat.[4]

The Conference revolved around the question of whether or not cholera should be subject to quarantine regulations. The Papal States, Tuscany, the Two Sicilies, Spanish, Greek, and Tuscan delegates supported quarantine measures against cholera, with Sardinia, Austria, Britain, and France opposing quarantine measures.[4]

The Austrian medical delegate, G. M. Menis, along with John Sutherland, the British medical delegate, and Anthony Perrier, the British diplomatic delegate, were most vocal against quarantine measures. The Spanish medical delegate, Pedro F. Monlau (es), and the Russian medical delegate, Carlos O. R. Rosenberger, were in the opposite camp.[4]

The Conference participants agreed on a draft Sanitary Convention and annexed draft International Sanitary Regulations consisting of 137 articles.[4]

Paris, 1859Edit

The second International Sanitary Conference opened in Paris on April 9, 1859. Except the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, all twelve countries of the first Conference were present.[5] The conference, which lasted for five months, resulted in Austria, France, Great Britain, the Papal States, Portugal, Russia, Sardinia, and Spain signing the slightly amended "draft convention" (itself a combination of the convention and the annexed international sanitary regulations agreed on the first conference). Greece and Turkey abstained.[6]

Istanbul, 1866Edit

The third International Sanitary Conference opened in Istanbul on 13 February 1866 under the initiative of the French Government after the invasion of Europe in 1865 by cholera.

Vienna, 1874Edit

The fourth International Sanitary Conference opened in Vienna on 1 July 1874.

Washington, 1881Edit

Rome, 1885Edit

The sixth International Sanitary Conference opened in Rome on 20 May 1885 by the Italian government as a result of the reappearance of cholera in Egypt in 1883.

Venice, 1892Edit

Dresden, 1893Edit

The eighth International Sanitary Conference opened in Dresden on 11 March 1893 under the initiative of the Austria-Hungarian government with nineteen European countries as participants.

Paris, 1894Edit

The ninth International Sanitary Conference opened in Paris on 7 February 1894 with France as its convener and sixteen countries as participants.

Venice, 1897Edit

The tenth International Sanitary Conference opened in Venice on 16 February 1897 with Austria-Hungary as its proposer and was the first such conference concerned exclusively with plague.

Paris, 1903Edit

The eleventh International Sanitary Conference met in Paris from 10 October to 3 December 1903.

Paris, 1911–1912Edit

The twelfth International Sanitary Conference opened in Paris on 7 November 1911 and closed on 17 January 1912 with 41 countries being represented.

Paris, 1926Edit

The thirteenth International Sanitary Conference was held in Paris from 10 May to 21 June 1926 with over 50 sovereign states as participants.

Paris, 1938Edit

The fourteenth and last International Sanitary Conference was convened by the French Government at the instigation of Egypt on 28 October 1938 with representatives of almost 50 countries as participants.


  1. ^ (Norman Howard-Jones 1974, p. 8)
  2. ^ (Norman Howard-Jones 1974, p. 9)
  3. ^ Markel, Howard (January 7, 2014). "Worldly approaches to global health: 1851 to the present" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 18, 2016. Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d (Norman Howard-Jones 1974, pp. 10–14)
  5. ^ The outbreak of the Franco-Austrian War of 1859 prompted the Austrian delegate to withdraw on 30 April on but he later attended between 20th-30th August
  6. ^ (Norman Howard-Jones 1974, pp. 15–20)

Norman Howard-Jones (1974). The scientific background of the International Sanitary Conferences, 1851-1938 (PDF). World Health Organization.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

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