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The Ghost Map

A book by Steven Johnson

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Mapping a mystery

  • Sep 29, 2008
  • by
Rating:
+1
Interesting retelling of the London Cholera outbreak in 1854, and how a physician and a pastor working on the edges of their disciplines solved the mystery and drew the "ghost map" of deaths which pointed to the source of the disease.

Bogs down when Johnson generalizes to the benefit of modern cities to the economy, the environment, and world health. Yeah, maybe, but I'm not sure Johnson proves the point or rather I'm fairly sure that Johnson over-reaches the evidence to try to prove his point.

Edward Tufte references this map extensively in his book Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative as a positive example of the power of proper visual display of information.

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More The Ghost Map reviews
review by . December 18, 2006
I've been fascinated by books chronicling disease research in less-modern times. I heard about Steve Johnson's The Ghost Map and looked forward to reading about London's fight against cholera in the mid-1800's. While interesting, I didn't find this one as compelling as other books in the genre.    Johnson looks at the cholera outbreak in London during the summer of 1854. This epidemic killed an incredible number of people in just a few days, and the medical establishment had …
review by . December 05, 2006
In a dramatic, harrowing and heroic narrative, Johnson recreates the London of 1854 in all its teeming modernity and pestilential filth. Viewing the devastating cholera epidemic of that summer as a pivotal point in the history of the modern city, Johnson describes a city on the verge of imploding from its own success.    Population had doubled in the previous 50 years, to 2.5 million. The scavengers alone numbered 100,000 and without them the city would have soon succumbed to …
About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #37
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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Starred Review.On August 28, 1854, working-class Londoner Sarah Lewis tossed a bucket of soiled water into the cesspool of her squalid apartment building and triggered the deadliest outbreak of cholera in the city's history. In this tightly written page-turner, Johnson (Everything Bad Is Good for You) uses his considerable skill to craft a story of suffering, perseverance and redemption that echoes to the present day. Describing a city and culture experiencing explosive growth, with its attendant promise and difficulty, Johnson builds the story around physician John Snow. In the face of a horrifying epidemic, Snow (pioneering developer of surgical anesthesia) posited the then radical theory that cholera was spread through contaminated water rather than through miasma, or smells in the air. Against considerable resistance from the medical and bureaucratic establishment, Snow persisted and, with hard work and groundbreaking research, helped to bring about a fundamental change in our understanding of disease and its spread. Johnson weaves in overlapping ideas about the growth of civilization, the organization of cities, and evolution to thrilling effect. From Snow's discovery of patient zero to Johnson's compelling argument for and celebration of cities, this makes for an illuminating and satisfying read. B&w illus.(Oct.)
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Details

ISBN-10: 1594489254
ISBN-13: 978-1594489259
Author: Steven Johnson
Genre: History, Science
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
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