The Ghost Map

The Ghost Map

The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

eBook - 2006
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A National Bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book, and an Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year From Steven Johnson, the dynamic thinker routinely compared to James Gleick, Dava Sobel, and Malcolm Gladwell, The Ghost Map is a riveting page-turner about a real-life historical hero, Dr. John Snow. It's the summer of 1854, and London is just emerging as one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure — garbage removal, clean water, sewers — necessary to support its rapidly expanding population, the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure. As the cholera outbreak takes hold, a physician and a local curate are spurred to action-and ultimately solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time. In a triumph of multidisciplinary thinking, Johnson illuminates the intertwined histories and interconnectedness of the spread of disease, contagion theory, the rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry, offering both a riveting history and a powerful explanation of how it has shaped the world we live in.
Publisher: 2006
ISBN: 9781101158531
Characteristics: 1 online resource

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Ms_Tiddilybops
Mar 26, 2019

The beginning of the book would get five stars--it is outstanding: exciting, well-written, informative, a page turner. When an author can do this to history, you know they have talent.

The middle of the book was still pretty good. I'd give it four stars. It was a bit repetitive, which made it slow-moving. Before revealing each new detail, the whole plot/history up to that point is revisited/summarized. It could have been edited, regrouped, and trimmed and it would have been much better. He didn't need to say the same thing in 10 different ways. Instead of building the story and excitement, it detracted from it.

The ending, meaning the conclusion and epilogue, were terrible. One star. Some of it was interesting and relevant to the history and applying that history to today's world, but for the most part I wish I'd skipped it. The ending is also very dated. It was at this point that I realized that the book was published in 2006, and it sorely shows.

Also, I honestly don't think this was London's most terrifying epidemic. So that's a little misleading.. Still overall a good book.

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bloomp
Nov 28, 2018

A fun read from multidisciplinary science writer Steven Johnson about the birth of modern epidemiology. I'd also recommend Johnson's previous book, Emergence.

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DavidSpencer99
Dec 12, 2017

For me, the focus on Dr. John Snow and Reverend Henry Whitehead shows how those who would fix social problems often have to both explore new methods and fight entrenched beliefs. Authorities were firmly convinced that “miasma” was the cause of disease; they knew that the bad smells in the poor parts of town were the source of the pestilence. Thus, the Board of Health Committee didn’t accept the waterborne theory because “their field of vision had been framed by the boundaries of miasma months before, when Benjamin Holt first outlined the committee’s objectives. This blanket dismissal of Snow’s theory seems like a colossal folly to us now, but these were not unreasonable men. They were not hacks, working for Victorian special-interest groups. They were not blinded by politics or personal ambition. They were blinded, instead, by an idea.” That's a classic example of learning from the mistakes of the past, it seems to me.

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lukasevansherman
Apr 11, 2017

When I first heard this title, I was, like, cool, a book about how ghosts map out how to haunt people! But, actually, it's about a cholera outbreak, which is not cool at all. Some other disease books include "The Great Mortality" (about the plague) and "The Hot Zone" (about ebola). Steven Johnson also wrote "Everything Bad is Good For You."

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LovieBooker
Feb 08, 2017

This was an interesting, yet difficult, book to read. The history nerd in me knew a little about the Broad Street Pump calamity in Victorian England. I also knew about Snow's work inn finding the source of the cholera epidemic of 1854, but not about the role played by Reverend Whitehead. I think I would have enjoyed it more had Johnson just stuck with just the history and not spent so much time on a soapbox about the social indifference to London's poorer inhabitants.

lbarkema Jan 05, 2016

This book was an engrossing look at cholera and it's effects, specifically on an outbreak in Victorian London in the neighborhood of what is currently Soho, where two local men figured out the cause and spread of this incredibly deadly disease. I enjoyed the history bits of dirty London and the housing there, as well as the science/medical information about cholera and more of the public health side of things. The reason I knocked it down a tad is for the fact of the epilogue. I don't think it was necessary at all, and I agree with reviewers who thought it should have been a separate essay that Johnson should have submitted somewhere else and not in this book. While he made some good points, it just didn't seem to fit and felt a bit like a rant. I actually thought that the ending to the chapter preceding the epilogue would have been an excellent ending for the content of this book. Overall, I recommend it for an interesting look at the time period and this horrible disease, but just skip the epilogue.

JCLGreggW Feb 02, 2015

An absolutely riveting tale of a cholera outbreak in a London neighborhood in 1854 and, more importantly, the story of how science mapped, tracked, and used reasoning to find and eliminate the outbreak. So it's a true story that's part mystery, part history, part sociological, and ALL fascinating. Steven Johnson weaves a magical tale that will keep you turning pages well into the night. (And you'll know more about Victorian London sewage and water tables than you'll ever think you'll need.)

nftaussig Dec 02, 2014

Steven Johnson's book The Ghost Map describes the 1854 cholera outbreak in London, how John Snow traced it to contaminated water in the Broad Street Pump, and why his evidence that cholera was a water borne disease was dismissed at the time by the medical establishment. The medical history of these events is better described by Sandra Hempel in The Medical Detective. However, Johnson's interest is broader. He chose to describe this epidemic since he is interested in how the evidence gathered by Snow and subsequent events (the Great Stink of London, the building of London's sewer system) led the medical establishment of the time to discard its own ideas about disease transmission and accept Snow's hypothesis that cholera is a water borne disease. Johnson's interest in the epidemic also has to do with the fact that the sanitation measures introduced in response to the Great Stink of London eliminated cholera from the city and accelerated urban growth, which up to that point had been limited by disease in unsanitary cities (a point he does not make clear). The book is worth reading. However, Johnson does a poor job of tying the epilogue about the trend toward urbanism in with the rest of the book.

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stewstealth
Oct 31, 2014

A good narrative on cholera outbreaks in London and the men who proposed and discovered that it was a water borne pathogen. This book shows how using disciplined science to overrule the current beliefs benefits all. Will be interesting in 50 years to see which current beliefs based on poor science are overthrown. Worth reading if you are interested.

SpringAltman Jun 27, 2014

This book chronicles the 1854 outbreak of cholera in London and a few exceptional men determined to find the cause and how it changed the modern world

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SpringAltman Jun 27, 2014

SpringAltman thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

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SpringAltman Jun 27, 2014

A cholera outbreak in London causes many to look for the orgin and how to cure the world of this awful epidemic

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