The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
The Ghost Map is a fascinating and well written reconstruction of London's cholera outbreak of 1854, the deadliest cholera outbreak the industrial city had seen. Johnson finds interesting ways to tie together many influences and examples of science and culture — quoting Charles Dickens, for example, for rich detail on Victorian London — to tell the brief but fascinating story of John Snow's multi-pronged research of cholera, and the titular outbreak map, one of the key illustrations of compiled evidence that shifted the attention of scientific research to waterborne disease.Only the final chapter seems irrelevant to the purpose of the book. "Broad Street Revisited" tries to stretch, in twenty rhetoric-ridden and repetitive pages, the efforts of John Snow and fellow researcher Reverend Henry Whitehead to every recent occurrence of bird flu, and to every possibility stemming from America’s viral-like fear of terrorist attacks. The great let down is that Johnson rips his audience from an excellent and obviously socially valuable research narrative to wave the flag of Relevance in their faces.