Charles Hastings (Canadian physician)

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Charles John Colwell Orr Hastings, (born in Markham Township, Canada, 23 August 1858; died in Toronto 17 January 1931) was an obstetrician and public health pioneer.


Dr. Hastings lost his daughter to typhoid because of contaminated milk. At that time, Toronto also had no sewage treatment, and used unchlorinated water from Lake Ontario. In middle age, Hastings switched from a normal career in obstetrics to an outstanding one in public health.

As Toronto's Medical Officer of Health (1910–29) Hastings crusaded to make Toronto the first city in Canada to pasteurize milk.[note 1] He introduced a safe water supply, eliminated privies, helped establish the public-health nursing system, medical and dental inspection in public schools, neighbourhood baby clinics, childhood immunizations, and health inspections for homes and restaurants. The improvements lowered Toronto's death rate from communicable diseases from 15.3 per 1000 in 1909 to 10.3 per 1000 in 1925. Hastings became president of the Canadian Public Health Association in 1916 and the American Public Health Association in 1918.

Prior to the 20th century, cities were so unhealthy that their populations grew only via migration from the countryside. Pioneering public health advocates like Hastings greatly contributed to the quality of modern life. By 1922, Toronto had the lowest death rate of large North American cities. Toronto was well regarded in public health by international medical professionals and the League of Nations.


  1. ^ Denmark instituted compulsory pasteurization in 1898 in an effort to limit the spread of tubercular disease.