- Hardcover: 331 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (January 1, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780520250499
- ISBN-13: 978-0520250499
- ASIN: 0520250494
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump: John Snow and the Mystery of Cholera 1st Edition
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"'The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump' has depth and poignance."--Joan Acocella"New Yorker" (10/14/2013)
From the Inside Flap
"This book is one of those rare gems that thrills like fiction but is based on fact. It tells of the clear thought and quiet endeavour of a man who, without seeking honour or fame, persisted in overcoming prejudice and separating fact from fancy. john Snow discovered the way in which epidemic cholera was caught and nearly always killed us. By doing so he not only told the world how to prevent it, he laid the basis for the the prevention of all the world's medical illsthe science of epidemiology."Dr. Mike Smith, Former NHS Director of Public Health (UK), and current 'resident' GP for Channel 5 News.
"This vivid book about the victories of science over ignorance provides insight as we head towards the next epidemic."Dr. Paul Volberding, Director of the Center for AIDS Research, University of California, San Francisco
Top customer reviews
I appreciate her attempt to humanize the story, because so many medical and history books are written in an unbearably dry manner. This strength is also the book's weakness: It is difficult to follow the many people introduced throughout. However, since we know John Snow is the main guy, it's easier to just keep track of him, then Google the other people later. :P
Furthermore, although they contribute to a deeper understanding of the times, a lot of the social problems mentioned aren't strictly necessary. Many pages are devoted to various scandals involving orphanages, waterworks companies, and merchants adulterating their wares. She even touches upon the lack of cadavers available at the time for dissection (for medical student education). I actually found a lot of this stuff pretty fascinating -- a mere 150 years ago, the world was a completely foreign place, and Ms. Hempel points out the groundwork for a lot of modern areas of study (John Snow's pioneering work in anesthesiology and epidemiology, obviously), changes in intellectual thinking (miasma vs. contagion theories of disease), and social reforms (Charles Dickens' exposure of the squalid conditions of the poor, and Edwin Chadwick's push for cleaning up Britain's cities / public health). But if you want super-straight information concerned only with the Broad Street pump, you'll find a lot of extraneous stuff.
I do feel that I learned quite a bit, though, and more importantly, it's keeping me interested in reading more books on medical history and personalities.
The author frequently quoted letters, journal articles, case notes, etc., from that time period They described what someone sick with cholera went through, the medical views on the spread and treatment of cholera, etc. There were also black-and-white illustrations: political cartoons and posters about cholera from that time period.
If talking about drinking water that contains feces and mentions of people throwing up grosses you out, then you might not enjoy the many vivid descriptions in this book. However, I found it an interesting, easy read from start to finish. The author clearly explained the (few) medical terms she used as well as any outdated phrasings in the quotes that might be confusing.
Cholera is another example of how the majority of scientists at that time were so sure of their own ideas about how sickness was transmitted that they couldn't see the truth even when John Snow clearly showed that they were wrong. Anyone who believes that "if most scientists say it then it must be true" should read books like this. :) Maybe they're right, maybe they aren't, but they aren't right just because they're in the majority.
In any case, I recommend this book to those who aren't easily grossed out who are interested in cholera and the advances in science that occurred while trying to fight it.
During the 19th Century, there were 3 great pandemics that killed large numbers of people in Asia & Europe. The primary killer was cholera, a disease for which there was no known cure.
One physician who sought a cure for cholera was John Snow who was a disciplined individual who suffered from the disdain of the British medical profession. Snow's research led him to the conclusion that cholera's spread was through contaminated drinking water.
In Snow's "grand experiment" he identified a contaminated pump and disabled it and by doing so began the defeat of the disease in London. Snow's work also furthered the development of germ theory and helped debunk the widely held theory of spontaneous generation of diseases.
This is a good book.