Observations on the Changes of the Air and the Concomitant Epidemical Diseases in the Island of Barbadoes

William Hillary, Edited and Annotated by J. Edward Hutson and Henry Fraser

Pages and Dimensions: 
278pp 6 x 9



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US$70 (s)


Observations on the Changes of the Air and the Concomitant Epidemical Diseases in the Island of Barbadoes was first published in 1759 in London.  Remarkably, a third edition was published in Philadelphia in 1812, with praise and annotations by the most famous American physician, Dr. Benjamin Rush, and with good reason.

It is certainly the first comprehensive documentation of an epidemiological nature, in English, in the Caribbean, and justifies the title ‘first Caribbean epidemiologist’ for Dr Hillary.  He made rigorous observations and clear deductions that have stood the test of time surprisingly well. As Sir George Alleyne, director emeritus of PAHO, says: “We marvel at the conclusions he drew from his observations without the use of the technology which we have at our disposal. We are surprised by the accuracy of the symptomatology he describes. “

Indeed, Hillary is famous for the earliest description of tropical sprue, but his description of what seemed to be yellow fever but “was not contagious”, as yellow fever was then thought to be, was absolutely accurate and this “Barbados jaundice” turned out to be leptospirosis.  His methods, his clinical skills and his eloquent writing deserve to be widely read.

[This work] is fascinating not only because of the effort Hillary made to relate disease to climate conditions, but it gives a picture of Barbados health as a fram of reference for what is current today.”

-        From the foreword by Sir George Alleyne, Director Emeritus of PAHO/WHO, and Professor Emeritus and Chancellor of the University of the West Indies

J. Edward Hutson is a retired medical practitioner. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and has written several articles for medical journals. He retired from family practice in 1996 and pursued his interest in West Indian history, editing and annotating Richard Ligon’s 1657 True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes, Sir Henry Colt’s manuscript Voyage to the Islands of Barbados and St Christopher and a collection of eyewitness observations, The English Civil War in Barbados. More recently he edited a collection of historical medical monographs, On the Treatment and Management of the More Common West India-Diseases, 1750-1802.

 Henry Fraser is Professor Emeritus, University of the West Indies, Barbados. He was founding director, Chronic Disease Research Centre, University of the West Indies (1992-2005), and Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences in Barbados from 2001 until retirement in 2010. He has also been an active writer, artist, public orator, architectural historian and conservationist. His publications include more than one hundred peer-reviewed medical and scientific papers, hundreds of articles and newspaper columns, and several books, including Treasures of Barbados, Illustrious West Indians, and the co-authored Historic Houses of Barbados and A–Z of Barbados Heritage.