Sick City Project

'Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be'

Death by Water – Celebrating John Snow’s 200th birthday

An 1832 lithograph showing a cholera victim from the first British outbreak. Copyright Wellcome Library, London

An 1832 lithograph showing a cholera victim from the first British outbreak. Copyright Wellcome Library, London

15 March 2013 marks the two hundredth birthday of John Snow, the Yorkshire-born GP who took part in two of the great revolutions in nineteenth-century medicine. Snow’s meticulous research helped to make early anaesthetics safer and more comfortable for patients, but he is now most famous for his groundbreaking epidemiological studies of cholera in London.

On 8th September 1854 a party of men approached a communal water-pump on what was then Broad Street in Soho, and watched as a workman removed the pump-handle. According to Snow, water from this pump was responsible for a terrible cholera outbreak, which had killed hundreds of people in this area over the previous weeks. With this argument Snow challenged centuries of medical orthodoxy. He showed that dirty water, rather than dirty air, caused cholera and many other deadly epidemic diseases.

We’ll be celebrating the life of this remarkable man in York and London. On 15 March I’ll be speaking about ‘John Snow and Cholera’, as part of a day of talks held at the Park Inn in York (which stands on the site of Snow’s birthplace). And throughout March I’ll be leading guided walks around John Snow’s Soho, in association with Wellcome Collection, to uncover the story of dirt and disease, pleasure and revolution in the grubby heart of the West End.

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This entry was posted on February 1, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , .
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