George Bodington

Portrait of George Bodington, Wellcome Images.
See page for author, CC BY 4.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

George Bodington (1799–1882) was a general medical practitioner. Having treated a number of patients for TB in rural Sutton Coldfield, he published an essay, "On the Treatment and Cure of Pulmonary Consumption" in 1840. The essay condemned contemporary treatments for TB. Bodington was particularly opposed to the recommended practice of confining patients to their sick bed, lying immobile in warm, unventilated rooms which he described as,

forcing them to breathe over and again the same foul air, contaminated with the diseased effluvia of their own persons.

On the Treatment and Cure of Pulmonary Consumption, 1840.

He advocated instead for dry frosty air, gentle exercise, and a healthy diet, noting patients should sleep at night in a cool, ventilated room. In the day, they should have “free use of a pure atmosphere” and as much exercise, especially riding and walking, “as the patient’s strength allowed.” His primary aim was to build up the patients’ bodily strength through a combination of good diet, exercise and clean air in a rural environment improving their capacity to resist the effects of TB. He was the first recorded physician to use the “fresh air” or “sanatorium method” as it became known to treat TB patients. Bodington also laid out ideas for specialist treatment centres, which anticipated later developments of TB sanatoria.

As an unknown rural GP his work was attacked by reviewers in the Lancet resulting in his retreat from general medical practice and the practical treatment of TB patients. However, by the mid 1850s, other practitioners were beginning to develop fresh air treatment strategies and Bodington’s work was rediscovered. In Germany, Herman Brehmer was pioneering sanatorium treatments, which became the accepted means of treating patients with TB until the discovery of antibiotics. Likewise, medical journals in England began to rediscover Bodington’s essay. In 1865, responding to a letter from Bodington, the British Medical Journal finally reversed the damage done by the scathing reviews of 1840 with the following statement:

Dr Bodington’s Treatise ... is a most sensible and practical essay. The rational principles of the treatment of the disease, which are accepted as orthodox at the present moment, will be found there, laid down in it twenty years ago.

British Medical Journal, 1865.

In 1902, Dr A.T. Tucker Wise, wrote a well-publicised article in the British Medical Journal, which established Bodington’s place in history as an early pioneer of TB treatment, writing,

nothing of importance in the routine treatment of pulmonary consumption has been added since his book appeared ... he was the originator of the modern method.

British Medical Journal, 1902