7th of December: Royal Commission on Metropolitan Sewage Discharge

Sewers1Sewage. It’s not the most fascinating of subjects but, as Oxfam’s humanitarian team will tell you, if you don’t deal with it you’ll have problems. In 1884 a commission was established to investigate the impact of London’s sewerage system on the Thames and suggest measures to reverse an pollution that might be occuring. The report itself is more than comprehensive featuring a history of the sewers and minutes of evidence from relevant experts (this volume actually comprises several reports and minutes).

Sewers2

Interesting though the findings on sewage discharge are, what makes this book so wonderful is the demonstration of how scientific investigations were conducted at the end of the 19th century. The minutes of evidence feature experts explaining the diagrams and charts that they have produced which are included in the book. Of particular interest are monochrome photographs of petri dishes and test tubes which were used to determine bacteria levels in the river water. It all sounds rather mundane until you remember that this is over 120 years old. The attention to detail is absolutely fascinating.

petri dishesTestubes

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