Kole-härra ja Tartu teadlased. Joogivee mikrobioloogilistest uuringutest Tartus 19. sajandi lõpul


  • Ken Kalling




Research on the Drinking Water in Tartu in the
Late 19th Century

The 19th century witnessed positive developments in the maintenance of cities. Various medical and healthcare factors had a role in this, including the understanding of drinking water as a relevant component of applied hygiene. Discussions on the quality of water turned vehement after the nature of infectious diseases was explained, i.e., it was proved that they are caused and transmitted by different
microorganisms. The presence of bacteria in water and the need for clean drinking water arising from it was still, however, not immediately unequivocal.
The approach to cholera is an example of a model situation, where different theories collided. At the turn of the century there were two theories on the spread of the aforementioned infectious disease that also reached Tartu: the drinking water theory (created by Robert Koch) and the so-called groundwater level theory (Max v. Pettenkofer). The first predicated that the disease spreads in drinking water
via disease agents. The other theory considered that the existence of certain favourable geological circumstances is relevant. Both theories fitted the scientific context of their times, i.e., they had strengths and weaknesses.
Against the backdrop of the concern for the quality of drinking
water, academics got involved in the discussion in Tartu as well. The research performed by Bernhard Körber, professor of hygiene at the University of Tartu, and his students persuaded the school of science here to support the drinking water theory. This was the right direction.
Körber was socially active, which, in its turn, helped to shape
the environment of Tartu in view of health care, including improving the quality of drinking water.


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