International Sanitary Conferences

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The International Sanitary Conferences were a series of 14 conferences, the first of them organized by the then French Government in 1851 to standardize international quarantine regulations against the spread of cholera, plague, and yellow fever. In total 14 conferences took place from 1851 to 1938; the conferences played a major role in the formation of the World Health Organization in 1948.


The outbreak of the Second cholera pandemic in 1829, prompted European Governments to appoint medical missions to investigate the causes of the epidemic. Among others, the Royal Academy of Medicine of Paris in June 1831, sent Auguste Gérardin (fr) and Paul Gaimard on medical mission to Russia, Prussia, and Austria.[1]

Later the Minister of Commerce of France, appointed the Secretary of the Conseil supérieur de la santé, P. de. Ségur-Dupeyron with the task of creating a report on the sanitary regulations of the Mediterranean countries. The report published in 1834, pointed to the differing quarantine requirements among the countries, and proposed to convene an international conference to standardise quarantine requirements against exotic diseases.[2]


# Venue Year Notes
Paris 1851 The pioneer movement.
Paris 1859 Indecision time.
Constantinople 1866 Discussion and common agreement on the propagation cause of cholera.
Vienna 1874
Washington 1881 First conference in which the United States participated.[3]:125
Rome 1885
Venice 1892 The first International Sanitary Convention adopted.
Dresden 1893
Paris 1894
10  Venice 1897
11  Paris 1903
12  Paris 1911–1912
13  Paris 1926
14  Paris 1938

Paris, 1851[edit]

The first International Sanitary Conference opened in Paris on July 23, 1851. A total of twelve countries participated including Austria, Great Britain, Greece, Portugal, Russia, Spain, France, Turkey and the four Italian Powers of Papal States, Sardinia, Tuscany, and the Two Sicilies; each country being represented by a pair of a physician and a diplomat.[4]

The Conference revolved around the question of whether or not cholera should be subject to quarantine regulations. The Papal States, Tuscany, the Two Sicilies, Spanish, Greek, and Tuscan delegates supported quarantine measures against cholera with Sardinia, Austria, Britain, and France opposing quarantine measures.[4]

The Austrian medical delegate, G. M. Menis along with John Sutherland, the British medical delegate and Anthony Perrier, the British diplomatic delegate were most vocal against quarantine measures with the Spanish medical delegate, Pedro F. Monlau (es) and the Russian medical delegate, Carlos O. R. Rosenberger in the opposite camp.[4]

The Conference participants agreed on a draft Sanitary Convention and annexed draft International Sanitary Regulations consisting of 137 articles.[4]

Paris, 1859[edit]

The second International Sanitary Conference opened in Paris on April 9, 1859. Except the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, all twelve countries of the first Conference were present.[5] The conference which lasted for five months, resulted in Austria, France, Great Britain, the Papal States, Portugal, Russia, Sardinia, and Spain signing the slightly amended "draft convention" (itself a combination of the convention and the annexed international sanitary regulations agreed on the first conference) with Greece and Turkey abstaining.[6]


  1. ^ (Norman Howard-Jones 1974, p. 8)
  2. ^ (Norman Howard-Jones 1974, p. 9)
  3. ^ Markel, Howard (January 7, 2014). "Worldly approaches to global health: 1851 to the present" (PDF). Retrieved April 5, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d (Norman Howard-Jones 1974, pp. 10–14)
  5. ^ The outbreak of the Franco-Austrian War of 1859 prompted the Austrian delegate to withdraw on 30 April on but he later attended between 20th-30th August
  6. ^ (Norman Howard-Jones 1974, pp. 15–20)

Norman Howard-Jones (1974). The scientific background of the International Sanitary Conferences, 1851-1938 (PDF). World Health Organization. 

External links[edit]