It’s the summer of 1854, and London is seized by a violent outbreak of cholera that no one knows how to stop. As the epidemic spreads, a maverick physician and a local curate are spurred to action, working to solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time. In a triumph of multidisciplinary thinking, Johnson illuminates the intertwined histories of the spread of disease, the rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry, offering both a thrilling account of the most intense cholera outbreak to strike Victorian London and a powerful explanation of how it has shaped the world we live in. Back Jacket of The Ghost Map
|Victoria and Albert|
The opening chapters of Steven Johnson’s, The Ghost Map,* presents a city so filthy as to make one think of the most squalid conditions in a Third World country. Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend gives us a glimpse of London’s poor who made their living on what the River Thames had washed up on its banks, but did it ever cross your mind that some of those people were scooping up dog excrement, a necessary ingredient in tanning leather? Did you know that “night soil” was stored in cellars when privies filled to overflowing? Okay, no more gross stuff. You get the picture. The poor lived in absolute squalor, crammed into inadequate housing, were underfed, and rarely saw a doctor. Because of their abysmal living conditions, they were particularly vulnerable to disease, especially if the pump outside their lodgings was rife with the bacteria that causes cholera.
However, Dr. John Snow wasn’t buying it. With the help of Rev. Henry Whitehead, a local curate, Snow was able to identify the source of the outbreak as the public water pump on Broad Street, the only water source for people of that area, and one that drew its water from the grossly polluted Thames.
|Dr. John Snow|
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