Chlorination of drinking water was only first suggested around the year 1800 by Louis – Bernard Guyton de Morveau (France) and William Cumberland Cruikshank (England).
The use of chlorine was introduced to England by William Cruickshank, who used it to purify water in 1800. These initial successes, however, seem to have been short-lived. Some experiments carried out over a century after Guyton’s work shed further light on why his method was short-lived. In the estimation of Frederick Andrews:
Chlorine gas, at least in the presence of moisture, is a more powerful disinfecting agent than sulphurous acid. However, once a room has been ‘chlorinated’, the air should be almost irrespirable (if the room has been sealed properly), producing severe bronchial spasms, after twenty four hours. Any animal left in the room during the operation will die . . . . Finally, metal objects may be tarnished and vegetable dyes bleached.
It is highly probable that those employing Guyton-style fumigations in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries also encountered these problems, and this may be why the fumigations were mostly discontinued. But there were other methods of utilizing chlorine that were more effective.
Photo: William Cumberland Cruikshank