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Death in the New Town: Silicosis in the 19th Century
For 2018 we are delighted to introduce a series of intimate talks taking a look behind the scenes at Surgeons Hall Museums, entitled #SpeakToTheSpecialist.
Professor Ken Donaldson, Surgeons’ Hall Museums Senior Research Fellow, will introduce the series by discussing his latest research here at the museums.
The building of the Edinburgh New Town, from the mid-18th to the mid-19th centuries, represented an advance in harmonious and elegant town planning, now recognised world-wide. A large number of Stonemasons gathered in Edinburgh to build the New Town and there have been sporadic reports that an outbreak of silicosis/tuberculosis occurred amongst them. Stonemasons were known, from early times, to suffer from inhaling stone dust leading to silicosis, a scarring lung disease that is potentially lethal and can lead to cancer.
Using contemporary accounts of the New Town incident and we uncovered evidence showing that a major epidemic did in fact occur. We believe that a number of factors related to working stone in Edinburgh conspired to cause the epidemic. We have also found lungs from Edinburgh Stonemasons in the collection of the museums that confirm the presence of silicosis. This talk will describe the nature of this unique public health incident, its significance and impact and how silicosis still continues to occur in Stonemasons.
The talk will last about 60min and the Museums will be open for viewing until 9pm for ticket holders only.
If you have and queries about this event please PM us or email [email protected]