SUNLIGHT RECORDS ERE is my thesis, now thirty-six years old.
" In conclusion, as practical results of this inquiry, I would urge the following — (1) The establishment of means for having systematic and exact records of the sunshine in the heart of our great cities as well as at favourite health resorts.' A sunshine recorder at an observa- tory on some hilltop near a large city is no guide to the amount of sunshine that reaches the streets and alleys of smoky cities. It is important that the sunshine recorder be of the form which indicates the chemical activity of the sun's rays rather than its heat."
Rickets, " the English disease," as it is called upon the Continent, was described by Dr. Francis Glisson in 1650. In 1890 the truth about it was discovered and published by Dr. T. A. Palm, a returned medical missionary, who had seen countless rickety children in Edinburgh as a student, but had never seen a case in nine years in Japan, and who obtained geographical data to prove that rickets is indeed what I nowadays call a " disease of darkness." His magnificent paper was published In the Practitioner, under the editorship of Sir Lauder Brunton, but was entirely forgotten. A whole generation has been lost and England is crowded with rickety children now, though no new case should have occurred after November, 1890. I have sat with Sir Lauder Brunton for years on a child welfare committee, where rickets was discussed, but he never mentioned this paper. I had to visit America to learn of its existence. Three hundred and fifty readers of the Spectator have obtained a reprint of much of it, and a few copies are still available for those who write quickly. It is to be found, with many beautiful photo- graphs, and a mass of invaluable other matter, of general interest, in No. 2 of Sunlight (The Sunlight League : Presidents, The Duke of Sutherland, Dr. T. A. Palm, 12 Park Crescent, London, W. 1. Price, ls. 1ld. post free).
The first thing asked for by this great and simple man of science—now in his seventy-ninth year—who demonstrates the worth of the laws of life to those who obey them by visiting his patients on his bicycle round Aylesford; was the recording of the facts of our country and her cities. He asked for two improvements upon • ordinary records. He wanted them made where they matter and he wanted them to deal with what matters.
A generation later, we still have everything to learn from our great pioneer. Daily we make and publish records which are of some climatic but of no civic interest : they concern meteorology but not medicine. Or rather; they do not concern preventive medicine but, if they were modified, so as to record the " Ultra-violet Sunlight " (see the Spectator, April 17th) by which we live, they would form a most valuable guide for all purposes of sanatoria, schools and colonies. We learn nothing whatever about the conditions of the children of Liverpool, for instance, by reading the sunlight records published for that city : but we might learn exactly what we want to know for remedial purposes if the records now taken at the obser- vatory on Bidston Hill in Cheshire were so made as to refer to ultra-violet light. I am the last man to underrate the meteorological data of our natural climate. • When such data are collected; and a map is made of them, and upon this map we dot the distribution of- our public sanatoria, as Dr. Leonard Hill has most usefully done for us, we find that The sanatoria are, almost wholly, placed where there is least of the ultra-violet sunlight which the patients most need. So long as we breed the diseases of darkness and attempt to treat them, as we must, we should seek to do so where, thanks to the costless dayspring from on high, there is the best chance of curing them. This indicates our southern coast, and especially its eastern, which is its less humid half. Our public sanatoria are anywhere but there. The first open air sanatorium for children ever set up in this country, at Stannington, fourteen miles north of Newcastle—recently extended, though I think it should be abandoned—on a cruelly cold and bitter and humid coast, perfectly illustrates the blind folly with which we have conducted this matter hitherto.
Whilst thus mapping out the natural climate of our country, and receiving invaluable indications for the location of our remedial and educational colonies, we must proceed with the urgently required civic records for which Dr. Palm asked more than a generation ago. When vested interests, representing that anomaly, Capitalism minus any Caput; tell us how rich is the sunshine in this or that shameful city, the continuance of whose ante- mortem pall of smoke is 'threatened by Mr. Neville Chamberlain's Smoke Abatement Bill, we must ask where the records were taken and what they' record. It will then be found that they are worthless as a defence. There is not one of these cities which publishes records of the ultra-violet sunlight in its populous parts, where the children who are our future all are born and reared. Any such city that began such records would speedily ellist'ontinue to publish them, as many have discontinued to publish their records Of soot-fall. But private citizens, whose patriotism is not of the whitewashing kind, may take and publish such records for themselves, with great ease and at trifling cost. There are many ways of measuring ultra-violet light, but. for our purpose the best is that which we owe to Dr. Leonard Hill and his fellow-workers on the Committee on Light of the Medical Research Council. Every .day there is exposed to the light a narrow quartz tube contain- ing acetone and methylene blue. The ultra-violet rays bleach the mixture and the degree of bleaching can be estimated against a set of standard tubes. These latter are in inexpensive glass and do not need to be recharged. The one quartz tube is necessary to admit the ultra- violet rays. The figures we read daily in the Times are obtained by this means. The apparatus, which costs a mere trifle, can be got from Messrs. Siebe, Gorman & Co., 187 Westminster Bridge Road, London, S.W.
The readings thus obtained furnish a far more cogent indictment of our urban smoke as the destroyer of the light of life than any yet made. The facts should be known in advance, before we discuss Mr. Chamberlain's Bill, and we should dismiss with contempt the doubly irrelevant and deceptive figures furnished by several of the cities most guilty of polluting the air and starving their childhood of its most essential food and tonic and antiseptic. Read Sunlight No. 2 ; it is not an ephemeral magazine, but a permanent and beautiful addition to any library : and you will join the ranks of those who mean to restore to our childhood its heritage of light.