Sanitary Measures Taken by the Inspector-in-Chief of Public Hygiene Charles Bonkowski Pasha During the 1893-1895 Cholera Epidemic in Ottoman TurkeyHikmet Çil
Cholera is an infectious disease that has caused many deaths throughout human history due to its ability to turn into an epidemic. The first cholera epidemic in the Ottoman Empire broke out in 1822, with epidemics being encountered after this date. Ottoman administrators formed the Meclis-i Umur-ı Sıhhiye [Council of Health Affairs] in 1838 to fight epidemic diseases, especially cholera. Moreover, the empire also appointed experts to combat epidemics. One of these experts was the chemist-pharmacist Charles Bonkowski Pasha, a refugee of Polish origin. Appointed as General Inspector-in-Chief of Public Hygiene in 1892, Bonkowski Pasha worked actively during the 1893-1895 cholera epidemic with his team in various cities of the Ottoman Empire such as Istanbul, Edirne, Bursa, Trabzon, Izmir, Izmit, and their surrounding areas. Bonkowski Pasha not only inspected the places he visited, but he also supervised the organization of sanitary officers and guided them with directives. He additionally presented his views to the Grand Vizier through his reports dealing with the emergence and spread of the disease in the places he’d inspected and the measures to be taken to bring it under control. Bonkowski Pasha attempted to maintain the sanitary measures he’d implemented in coordination with the Office of the Grand Vizier and the Council of Health Affairs. The present article is essentially based on the sanitation reports Bonkowski Pasha wrote that are kept in the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul.
Hıfzıssıhha Umum Başmüfettişi Charles Bonkowski Paşa’nın Osmanlı Türkiye’sinde Başgösteren 1893-1895 Kolera Salgını Sırasında Aldığı Sağlık ÖnlemleriHikmet Çil
Kolera, bir enfeksiyon hastalığıdır ve salgına dönüşebilme özelliği nedeniyle insanlık tarihi boyunca çok fazla can kaybına sebep olmuştur. Osmanlı İmparatorluğunda ilk kolera salgını 1822 yılında görülmüş, bu tarihten sonra da salgınlarla karşılaşılmıştır. Osmanlı yöneticileri, kolera başta olmak üzere diğer salgın hastalıklarla mücadele amacıyla 1838’de Meclis-i Umur-ı Sıhhiye’yi teşkil etmiştir. Devlet, bu kurumun yanı sıra salgınla mücadele için geniş yetkilerle donatılmış bazı uzmanları da görevlendirmiştir. Bu uzmanlardan birisi aslen Polonyalı (Leh) bir mülteci olan kimyager-eczacı Charles Bonkowski Paşa (1841-1905)’dır. 1892’de Hıfzıssıhha Umum Başmüfettişliği unvanı verilen Bonkowski Paşa, maiyetinde yer alan görevliler ile başta İstanbul olmak üzere Edirne, Bursa, Trabzon, İzmir, İzmit ve civarında başgösteren 1892-1895 kolera salgınında aktif görev almıştır. Gittiği yerlerde sadece teftiş yapmamış, bir amir sıfatıyla sağlık görevlilerini organize etmiş, çeşitli direktifler vererek onları yönlendirmiştir. Ayrıca teftiş ettiği yerlerde hastalığın nasıl ortaya çıktığına, yayıldığına ve kontrol altına alınabilmesi için nelerin yapılması gerektiğine dair görüşlerini Sadarete raporlar halinde sunmuştur. Bonkowski Paşa, önerdiği ve uygulamaya koyduğu sağlık önlemlerini Sadaret ve Meclis-i Umur-ı Sıhhiye ile eş güdümlü olarak yürütmeye çalışmıştır. Bu makale, ağırlıklı olarak Bonkowski Paşa’nın hazırladığı ve Osmanlı Arşivi’nde (İstanbul) bulunan raporlara dayanılarak hazırlanmıştır.
Throughout history, societies have experienced various disasters, one of these being cholera, an infectious disease that originated in India. Due to its ability to turn into an epidemic, cholera has caused great damage to many states including the Ottoman Empire. The first cholera epidemic in the empire broke out in 1822, with epidemics having ravaged the country since then at various intervals. The 1865 epidemic in particular caused great losses that urged the Ottoman administrators to take greater measures against its spread. The Meclis-i Umur-ı Sıhhiye [Council of Health Affairs] was established in 1838 in order to combat epidemics using modern medical methods. When a cholera epidemic broke out in Hamburg, Germany in 1892, Sultan Abdul Hamid II, worried about its spread to Istanbul, additionally decreed the establishment of an inspectorate of public hygiene in 1892. The chemist and pharmacist Charles Bonkowski Pasha, a Polish refugee who had previously studied the sewers of Istanbul and analyzed the drinking water of the city, was appointed as the chief inspector. This administration was first entrusted with the sanitary problems of Istanbul, as is indicated by the name Inspectorate for Hygiene for Dersaadet and Galata, Üsküdar, and Eyüp. In the same year, the inspectorate’s mission was expanded to include the entire territory of the empire, and its name was changed to the General Inspectorate for Public Hygiene.
As inspector-in-chief of public hygiene, Bonkowski Pasha along with his team composed of doctors and disinfection officers, worked effectively against cholera epidemics in Edirne, Bursa, Trabzon, Izmir, Izmit, and especially Istanbul between 1892-1895. He was first given information about the state of infected cities, and he and his team would then visit these cities in line with this information to conduct inspections. During these inspections, Bonkowski Pasha would receive support from the governors, local administrators, military units, and other prominent people. Additionally, Bonkowski Pasha would form a health commission consisting of local people to discuss the measures to be taken against the epidemic. However, he was forced to face some hinderances from the Mayor Rıdvan Pasha in Istanbul, especially for the work to be done in the sewers of the city. In the end, though, the Sultan backed Bonkowski Pasha regarding this situation.
Bonkowski Pasha had large-scale disinfections performed in the houses where cholera had broken out. He would have some items burned and immovable objects disinfected effectively. He also would have the remaining items washed and ventilated and the interior walls whitewashed. Streets and market places were cleaned, open toilets were whitewashed, sewers were covered, and rats were exterminated. Work was done to prevent contaminated water from being mixed with the drinking water.
Bonkowski Pasha also attempted to prevent the spread of the disease by implementing large-scale quarantines. He ordered the belongings of passengers staying in the quarantine houses located on the important transit routes of the empire to be disinfected, which was important because passengers could spread the disease to other places after leaving the quarantine houses. Bonkowski Pasha provided detailed reports on the epidemic for the places he visited. He would send these reports directly to Abdul Hamid II, in which he detailed the problems he’d encountered and the work he’d done.
The pasha sometimes acted in unison with the Council of Public Health when working in places where he’d been assigned. However, he mentioned in his reports that the Council did not always send the required officials to contaminated places, or if they were sent, their number was insufficient. Still, Bonkowski Pasha established good relations with the local peoples, took care to not disturb the people with the precautions he took, and tried to reduce the quarantine period in unaffected localities. The steps he took did sometimes cause problems between him and the Council of Public Health, and the council did not hesitate to warn Bonkowski Pasha about obeying the sanitation laws.
The present article is essentially based on the sanitation reports Bonkowski Pasha had written that are kept in the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul. These reports show the hygiene conditions in the Empire to have been poor, with open sewers, non-sanitary toilets, contaminated water being mixed with drinking water, and the unhealthiness of market places and streets being the main factors that paved the way for the spread of the cholera epidemic and that undoubtedly made Bonkowski’s mission difficult. These reports also provided information about the Ottoman administrators’ struggle against the cholera epidemic of 1893-1895.