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Wallace on tackling London's pollution

Wallace on tackling London's pollution

Catalogue number: WP1/3/60

Manuscript by Wallace addressed to George Silk, suggesting an Act of Parliament to tackle the smoke problem in London and quoting a letter from his brother in California about politics determining official appointments, dated November 1858.

This manuscript was accompanied by a letter Wallace wrote to his old friend George Silk (WP1/3/45). He gave instruction that the 'smoke' article was to be sent to the Athenaeum newspaper.

The article, entitled Note on the Smoke Nuisance, laments the art and buildings ruined by London smoke. Wallace writes that smoke makes 'our clothes begrimed and our lungs diseased'. He suggested an Act of Parliament was needed to enforce the use of smokeless fuels and cookers. He reckoned this would 'get rid of nine tenths of the smoke now produced'. Another benefit: 'the mere saving in soap and linen would cover the expense in a few years...'

Even though he was far away in Batchian (Malay Archipelago), Wallace still thought of the social issues to tackle back home in London. Despite his passion on the matter, it was 1875 before a Public Health Act sought to reduce smoke pollution in urban areas. In many matters, Wallace, with his radical thinking, was ahead of his time.

The remainder of this manuscript contains a quote from a letter sent to Wallace by his brother John. He suggests that official appointments in the USA are made on the basis of politics rather than qualifications.

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