Sir Edwin Chadwick KCB (24 January 1800 – 16 July 1890) was an English social reformer, noted for his work to reform the Poor Laws and improve sanitary conditions and public health. One of the reasons why Chadwick believed in improvement to public health was because he believed it would save money. He was born in Longsight, Manchester. Called to the bar without any independent means, he sought to support himself by literary work such as his work on Applied Science and its place in Democracy, and his essays in the Westminster Review (mainly on different methods of applying scientific knowledge to the practice of government) brought him to the notice of Jeremy Bentham, who engaged him as a literary assistant and left him a large legacy.
In 1832 Chadwick was employed by the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the operation of the Poor Laws, and in 1833 he was made a full member of that body. Chadwick and Nassau William Senior drafted the famous report of 1834 recommending the reform of the old Poor Law. Under the 1834 system individual parishes were formed into Poor Law Unions – each Poor Law Union was to have a union workhouse. Chadwick favoured a more centralised system of administration than that which was adopted, and he felt the Poor Law reform of 1834 should have provided for the management of poor law relief by salaried officers controlled from a central board, the boards of guardians acting merely as inspectors.
In 1834 he was appointed secretary to the Poor Law commissioners. Unwilling to administer an act of which he was largely the author in any way other than the way he thought best, he found it hard to get along with his superiors. This disagreement, among others, contributed to the dissolution of the Poor Law Commission in 1847. Chadwick's chief contribution to political controversy was his belief in entrusting certain departments of local affairs to trained and selected experts, instead of two representatives elected on the principle of local self-government.