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The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World Paperback – October 2, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
When I was recommended to read Steven Johnson's book, it was not for the sake of diving into a good read, but rather to `browse' through it for further insight on the origins of water contamination and how, thru these origins, terrorist could look at contamination for horrific purposes. As a writer with an interest in international affairs, and a tendency to use fiction storytelling to share my views, I opened Steven Johnson's book and within pages was completely hooked on this extraordinarily written, well researched tell all of the London epidemic of cholera that killed so many lives.
With reflection on how science viewed pathogenic outbreaks during the midpoint of the 19th Century, it was startling to find that there really existed a classification system that gave all sorts of bizarre reasons why a disease would spread, including a weight based upon wealth and financial disposition! We sure have come a long way . . . or have we?Read more ›
What makes the book so good is the way it places you into the mind of someone living in London in 1854 and making you understand why it was so hard for them to accept the true cause of the disease when it seems so obvious to us today. That experience makes a thoughtful reader wonder what things we take for granted today that will seem so obviously wrong in 150 years.
The book stays at four stars, not five, for several reasons. First off, the actual namesake of the book, The Ghost Map, is little more than a tacked-on afterthought at the conclusion of the book. It's interesting, but more of a post-script than anything else, and certainly not appropriate as the title of the book - somebody must have thought it sounded like it would sell books. No worries though, the book it sells is a good one.
Also, Johnson goes on some odd tangents at the end of the book talking about city life and trying to tie internet technology back to the work Snow did. It's a reach and not terribly relevant.Read more ›
Two men, Dr. John Snow and Rev. Henry Whitehead, began to suspect that the true culprit was water from the neighborhood pump and conducted an assiduous investigation that finally proved them right. Although most doctors and scientists were reluctant to discard the miasma theory, eventually the weight of the evidence convinced them that Snow and Whitehead were correct.
Like all good histories, The Ghost Map branches from the main story to trace the many different ways in which Snow and Whitehead's investigations helped lead to the development of modern cities. I especially enjoyed the final chapters and epilogue, in which Johnson identifies many ways in which our modern mega-cities are both more vulnerable (yet thanks to technology and communications safer and better able to cope with threats as well) than was London in 1854.
The Ghost Map is an engrossing read, well written, scholarly, yet dramatic too. It will appeal to historians and fans of medical detection alike.
Great: the background on Victorian sanitation and the human ecology that grew up about this sanitation (or lack thereof). For example, I bet you didn't know there was a whole occupation devoted to the collection of "pure" (dog poo) used in the tanning process. The details of the spread of cholera in the outbreak traced by Dr. Snow are fascinating, as is the dissection of the cult of miasma. The varnished cover, with a ghostly map (but it's not *the ghost map*) appearing at the right angle is very cool.
Not so great: This is a book called "The Ghost Map". It could use a great deal more cartography. The wonderful cover to the despite, there's no reproduction that I could see of the eponymous ghost map in the book.
The book could also have used a good editor, or at least some more self-editing on the part of Mr. Johnson. Coverage of Victorian sanitation, Dr. Snow, and the cholera outbreak of 1854 is fascinating every icky step of the way. But when Johnson heads out of the limits of his tale and heads into Jane Jacobs territory, his chapters begin to sound like lightly reworked Wired articles. Johnson's thoughts on global warming, for example, really do not belong in this book. A more disciplined approach to narrative could have produced a great and classic title. Alas, this book is not.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have a Master's in public health so I am fairly well-versed in the history that made the field what it is today. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Amazon Customer
I thoroughly enjoyed this read. The author takes an interdisciplinary approach to the topic and does a good job relaying information in an imaginable creative form without bogging... Read morePublished 27 days ago by Farrell
This is the first of Steven Johnson I have read but will not be the last if I continue to live. I am 86, retired from pediatrics 21 years ago, continued as a pediatric network... Read morePublished 28 days ago by Harold F. Vann
A true must read for the public health enthusiast
Steven Johnson joins a growing shelf of authors who put the spread of disease under the microscope in a manner the lay reader can enjoy. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Betsy Ashton
Completely gripping even though I don't study any of the fields represented.Published 1 month ago by K. Franklin
This is a surprisingly good book. It's a little hard to get into at first, but it becomes so interesting! Read morePublished 1 month ago by Diane Laski
A page-turner until he goes "eco" at the end, totally neo-geo political and non-interesting. I zoomed thru those last 2 boring chapters just to finish the book. Read morePublished 2 months ago by L.C. Brown
The story about the scientific study of cholera and how began to understand more about illness and outbreaks was interesting and well written. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer