I scarcely know where to begin in Ghost Maps
It is truly a multidimensional book.
I'll stay with my original reason for reading and highlight medical aspects.
It's summer 1854 and the site is London.
We have an emerging metropolis with a population over two million and our infrastructure standards are
Waste management is nil and water is sewage polluted.
An epidemic ensues and 10% of the population is dead in 7 days.
The situation was terrifying.
There was scientific confusion.
The pathogen later was identified as a comma shaped bacterium and named vibrio cholerae
The miasma theory held that diseases such as cholera, chlamydia or the Black Death were caused by a miasma (Μίασμα, ancient Greek: "pollution"), a noxious form of "bad air"
The theory held that the origin of epidemics was due to a miasma, emanating from rotting organic matter."
Enter Dr John Snow
"John Snow (15 March 1813 – 16 June 1858) was an English physician and a leader in the adoption of anaesthesia and medical hygiene.
He is considered one of the fathers of modern epidemiology, in part because of his work in tracing the source of the cholera outbreak in Soho, London, in 1854."
Dr John Snow expounded a partially correct theory that cholera was spread through water.
By tireless effort of testing water and talking to local residents (with the help of Reverend Henry Whitehead), he identified the source of the outbreak as the public water pump on Broad Street.
The ghost maps that they assembled were dot maps used to illustrate the cluster of cholera cases around the pump.
Deaths dots or dashes highlighted the Broad Street pump.
Throughout the read, we meet city residents, the doctors chasing the disease, the medical detective Rev Henry Whitehead and the pathogen itself....
Finally we see how this epidemic initiated profound changes in science, in city managment and modern society in general.
I found Steven Johnson (the author) to be an intriguing thinker.
The scope of his research is impressive and Alan Sklar did an fine job of narration.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★