CodeDS/UK/2
Person NameHaygarth; John (1740-1827); Dr; physician
Dates1740-1827
TitleDr
Epithetphysician
HistoryHaygarth was born at Swarth Gill in the parish of Garsdale in the West Riding of Yorkshire, the son of William Haygarth and Magdalen Metcalfe. He was educated at Sedbergh School, after which he was tutored in mathematics by John Dawson, a surgeon and self-taught mathematician who later provided much of the statistical data for Haygarth's works. Haygarth matriculated from St John's College, Cambridge, as the Hepplethwaite scholar in 1759; he graduated MB in 1766. After completing his studies at Edinburgh (1762-5), Leiden, where he matriculated in 1765, London, and Paris, Haygarth was appointed physician to Chester Infirmary in 1766.

During his three decades in Chester, Haygarth built a reputation as one of the outstanding medical practitioners of his time. His special interests were the treatment of fever patients and the prevention of smallpox, and his pioneering work in these spheres attracted widespread interest. In 1774 he conducted a population census in Chester which included questions about typhus fever and smallpox. In his subsequent paper, Observations on the Population and Diseases of Chester in 1774, he advocated removing poor fever patients to separate fever wards. He also ascertained that out of a population of 14,713 in 1774, only 1060 had never contracted smallpox. The high mortality rate arising from smallpox in Chester led him to concentrate on investigating how to prevent the disease.

The Smallpox Society founded in Chester in 1778 (largely as a result of Haygarth's initiative) was formed to promote inoculation and to prevent casual contraction of the disease. By 1782 the number of local deaths from casual smallpox had reduced by nearly half. In recognition of his work Haygarth was elected to the Royal Society on 8 February 1781. In 1784 Haygarth's Inquiry how to Prevent the Small Pox was published. This attracted wide interest and approval and its translation into French and German helped to establish Haygarth's international reputation. His theories were further elaborated in his Sketch of a plan to exterminate the casual small pox from Great Britain and to introduce general inoculation (1793), which was dedicated to the king.. His plan failed to win acceptance in the reactionary political climate of the 1790s, which was hostile to grand reform schemes.

During the early 1780s Haygarth also investigated the laws governing febrile contagion. His researches led him to conclude that it was both safe and wise to admit fever patients into separate wards of the infirmary, rather than to use an adjoining building. In 1783 an attic storey at Chester Infirmary was converted into two wards for the reception and isolation of fever patients. These were the first fever wards in the country and the success of the experiment was immediate. During the first year of the wards, thirty fever patients were admitted to Chester Infirmary, and all except one recovered.

Haygarth moved to Bath in 1798. No longer having a hospital appointment Haygarth had time to analyse his large collection of clinical records. This led to the publication of treatises on rheumatic fever and on the nodosity of the joints, a term which he proposed to substitute for 'rheumatic gout'. He also published several papers in Philosophical Transactions and other scientific journals and was a fellow of the Royal Society both of London and of Edinburgh.

He died at Lambridge House near Bath on 10 June 1827, and was buried at Swainswick church.

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