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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? I guess we can still look at Africa with great outrage and clearly say we're back in London during 1854! And this folks is important: in Johnson's attempt to share the history of the past, what he really is doing is talking about the immediate needs of to protect the most impoverished with assistance to medical treatment, and ongoing diligence to understand the nature of disease and how wide-spread health concerns effect not only those who are directly in contact with a pathogenic, but equally as important: how societies infrastructure's essentially crumble when epidemic disease spreads.
Writing with such an easy style that readers will not get lost, Johnson takes us on a fascinating trip with Dr. John Snow; clearly one of the scientific pioneers whose actions have saved the lives of untold people. Take your time and sit back with `The Ghost Map': it may bring you a bit closer to acting in a socially responsible way that connects all of us a bit further. It may even cause you to open your wallet and send a few much needed dollars to health care organizations attempting to follow the lead of Dr. Snow: determining pathogenic causes and feverishly attempting to help those in need. Steven Johnson's `The Ghost Map' is simply brilliant.
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. I get the feeling it was fun for Johnson to write his pet theories, but they don't really fit here and probably could have been the basis of an interesting book on their own.
All in all, this one has some flaws, but is a thought-provoking an interesting book the takes your mind back 150 years and gives you a fresh perspective. Well worth reading.
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.