Sir Henry Duncan Littlejohn: Wider impact of his work
The influence of Henry Duncan Littlejohn, however, was felt beyond the publication of his Sanitary Report. During his 46 years as Medical Officer of Health (retiring in 1908), Littlejohn also pioneered many other aspects of public health. Besides his championing of the Vaccination (Scotland) Act 1863, as already noted, these included the following:
Compulsory notification by doctors of cases of infectious diseases (as set out in the Edinburgh Municipal and Police Act, 1879 and later verified under the 1897 Public Health (Scotland) Act). This legislation utilised a carrot and stick approach to ensure enforcement; financial penalties were introduced for both doctors and milk vendors who failed to notify the Medical Officer of Health of any outbreaks of infectious disease within any of the City’s premises and financial rewards for medical practitioners who correctly diagnosed and reported the same.
Advocacy for a City Fever Hospital which induced Edinburgh Town Council to purchase the Infirmary’s old buildings in the High School Yards area for this purpose under Littlejohn’s control. He was also very much involved with the City’s new Fever Hospital which was opened on its new site in Colinton Mains in 1903. (The image provided below of the Fever Hospital’s main entrance is used with kind permission of the Edinburgh Room, Central Library)
Littlejohn’s energy and commitment to the cause of public health was maintained throughout his life. As noted above, he continued his lectures in Medical Jurisprudence and Forensic Medicine and was elected Chair of the Department in 1897, at the age of seventy-one. He was only succeeded in this role by his son Henry Harvey Littlejohn in 1906. Moreover, he was also President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh between 1875 and 1876, the President of the Medico-Chirurgical Society between 1883 and 1885, and was granted an honorary degree by the University of Edinburgh in 1893 – the same year in which he became President of the Royal Institute of Public Health. The enormity of his achievements in all these fields was acknowledged in 1895 when he was knighted by Queen Victoria.