Even a casual study of history permits us to see the mistakes of the past and also the relevance of the past to our present-day problems. A newly published book, John Duffy's A History of Public Health in New York City,1 presents a fascinating account of public health problems in the past, the way they developed, how they were attacked, and with what failures and successes. The book also helps us understand today's trends.
When New Amsterdam was founded in the early 17th century it had superb advantages, and in the middle of the century it was deemed remarkably wholesome and healthful. But the number of settlers was then small. As the population increased, difficulties appeared and then multiplied with dreadful rapidity. The present volume carries the story only up to 1866 (a second volume is in preparation), but even then—over a century ago— the health problems were staggering