Hometown History #76: George W. Fuller –Sanitation Superman


Massachusetts was a pioneer in public sanitation improvement. Leaders like William T. Sedgwick, Theobald Smith, Hiram Francis Mills, William Ripley Nichols, Ellen Swallow Richards, and Thomas Messinger Drown, most affiliated with the Lawrence Experiment Station, broke new ground in the theory and practice of public health and, in particular, the necessity for clean water.

George W. Fuller, who was born in Franklin in 1868 and complete his early schooling here before himself attending MIT, was the next generation of innovators. Studying under Sedgwick while completing his bachelor’s degree, Sedgwick later dispatched him to Germany where he examined the practices being implement in Berlin and studied bacteriology at the Hygiene Institute of the University of Berlin.

Upon returning to the US, Fuller emerged as one of the most skilled and innovative builders of sanitation systems on the continent, quickly hired to help Cincinnati and Louisville with their challenges.

He later helped develop one of the first chlorine treatment systems for Jersey City, NJ – putting it into service in just 99 days.

Over the course of his career, which ended with his death in 1934, he was responsible for constructing about 150 different project and counted among his clients major cities such as New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Kansas City, MO

Fuller was also an important figure in the early history of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the American Public Health Association (APHA), helping to develop standards and authoring books on best practices. AWWA created the George Warren Fuller Award in 1937 – something still bestowed periodically to honor achievement in the field.

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