He Diverted London's Filth


was the birthday of Sir Joseph William Bazalgette, an English civil engineer born in 1819 who created a new drainage system for the city of London, greatly improving public health. In the wake of two major cholera outbreaks in 1849 and 1853, Bazalgette was charged with revamping the city's sewer system, which served more than 7 million inhabitants, to avoid dumping sewage into the Thames River near the city. As chief engineer to the London Metropolitan Board of Works, Bazalgette designed the system and had it built over 20 years. His radical plan required 170 kilometers of large-diameter sewers, 70,000 tons of Portland cement, three pumping stations, a new Thames embankment, and outfalls 20 kilometers beyond London Bridge.

[Source: Trevor I. Williams, Ed., A Biographical Dictionary of Scientists (John Wiley & Sons, ed. 3, New York, 1982).]