Health and demographic situation of Iran in mid 19th century: an Austrian physician's observations

Elaheh Mirzaee, Institute for Research on Planning and Development, Tehran
Shirin Ahmad-Nia, Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, Iran
Amir-Houshang Mehryar, Ministry of Science, Research & Technology, Iran

Iran is one of the oldest countries of the Middle East and has contributed enormously to Islamic civilization. The demographic past of the country has however received scant attention from either local demographers or Western students of Iran. There was an increase in the number of Western travelers and emissaries to Iran during the 16th and 17th centuries (the Safavid period) and they have left valuable observations on various aspects of Iranian society. The most systematic observations on the state of population and health of Iranian people however belongs to Dr Jakob Eduard Polak (1818-1891)an Austrian physician who spent over ten years teaching modern medicine at Tehran polytechnic and practicing medicine in Tehran between 1851-1860. He appears to have had a much broader perspective than ordinary physicians of his time and emerges as a keen observer of the social environment of the country as well as its health problems and practices. His observations regarding the average number of children born by Iranian women, high rates of infant and child mortality and relatively low rate of maternal mortality in mid 19th century Iran deserve more attention than they have received.

Presented in Poster Session 2