SUTHERLAND, Dr John 1808-1891. Public health reformer. Sutherland was born and studied medicine in Edinburgh, having spent much of his early life on the continent. He practised for a short time in Liverpool, where he edited the Health of Towns journal. In 1848, at the request of the Earl of Carlisle, he entered public service as an inspector with the first Board of Health, when he probably moved to London. He conducted the inquiry into the 1848-49 cholera epidemic and headed a commission sent to foreign countries to investigate the law and practice of burial. He represented the Foreign Office at the 1851-52 congress in Paris on the law of quarantine, where he was presented with a gold medal by Louis Napoleon. In 1855, he worked at the Home Office bringing into operation the act for abolishing burials in City churches, because they were overcrowded and spread disease.
Sutherland’s later efforts were devoted to improving sanitary conditions in the army. He headed a commission in the Crimea, where he found Florence Nightingale a valuable ally. In 1855 he was summoned to Balmoral to inform Queen Victoria of the steps taken to benefit the troops. He set up a committee to visit all the barracks and military hospitals in the United Kingdom; its report was published in 1858. He later reported on conditions in India and the Mediterranean stations. Although he retired from the Army Sanitary Committee in 1888, at the age of 80, he was then appointed Medical Superintending Inspector General of the Board of Health and the Home Office and continued to work until shortly before his death.
Sutherland wrote several publications and edited the Journal of Public Health and the monthly record of sanitary improvement. In 1871, he was living with his wife and sister at Oakleigh, Palace Road (now Alleyn Park), where he died on 14 July 1891.