Sunday, September 14, 2014

William Budd

William Budd was born on September 14, 1811 in North Tawton, Devonshire. Budd was born into a family of physicians. His father and seven of his ten brothers were medical professionals, Budd was initially apprenticed to his father and then went to Paris, France where he studied for four years. In 1838 he graduated with an MD from Edinburgh University where he shared a gold medal for an essay he wrote on rheumatism. Budd briefly served aboard the hospital ship HMS Dreadnought in Greenwich, where he nearly died from a bout of typhoid fever. Forced to resign due to his illness Budd went home to North Tawton, where he assisted his father in his country practice. There Budd began to study typhoid fever, a subject which was to become his life's work. In 1842 Budd emigrated to Bristol where he served as a physician at St. Peter's Hospital and the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

In 1847 Budd visited a patient suffering a fever in the Bristol suburb of Richmond Terrace. Budd diagnosed typhoid fever and his investigation revealed that of the 34 households of Richmond Terrace 13 had experienced cases of typhoid fever. Subsequent investigation revealed that those 13 households all shared the same well as a water supply and the rest of Richmond Terrace used different water sources. With this information Budd hypothesized that the well was the source of the infection. In 1849 when Budd took charge of the water supply for Bristol he concluded that it was responsible for the spread of cholera. Before Budd took control of the water supply a cholera epidemic had killed 2000 in Bristol. In 1866 an outbreak killed only 29. Budd was slow to publish his findings regarding the transmission of cholera waiting for microscopical results which eventually proved inconclusive, but before he published John Snow, a London physician, published his findings concerning the source of cholera spread. Budd honestly gave Snow credit for priority for the discovery that cholera was spread through contaminated water supplies.

In the days before the discovery of the organisms responsible for typhoid fever and cholera Budd's conclusions were greeted with skepticism. Today we know that typhoid fever is caused by the organism Salmonella typhi and cholera is caused by Vibrio cholerae. Both organisms are spread by fecal contamination of water supplies in conditions of poor sanitation. Vibrio cholerae was disovered by Italian microbiologist Filippo Pacini who published in 1854, but it was not until after Budd's death that the causative organism for typhoid fever was discovered.

Budd died on January 9, 1880.


Bettany, George Thomas; "Budd, William" in Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 7; Elder Smith and Co.; 1886; retrieved from

Dunnill, Michael S.; "Commentary: William Budd on Cholera"; International Journal of Epidemiology (2013) 42:1576-7

Moorhead, Robert; "William Budd and Typhoid Fever"; Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine; (2002) 95:561-4

William Budd Wikipedia Entry

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