A 19th century hero

I love being married to a high school social studies teacher.

Dr. John Snow
Have you ever heard of Dr. John Snow, the father of public health? There was a cholera outbreak in London, ca. 1850. Cholera outbreaks were common in those days because of overcrowded living conditions and poor sanitation. This is pre-Pasteur. They didn't know about microbes. They thought diseases were caused by miasmas, or poorly balanced bodily humours, or an angry God. But Dr. John Snow took it upon himself to go out into the field and do some research. He tracked down every case of cholera he could find, and figured out where the victim was when he or she first got sick. It turned out there was a huge cluster around the pump on Broad Street. Dr. Snow didn't know that cholera is caused by water-borne bacteria. But he knew there was something wrong with the water from that pump. So he immediately went to the parish council and told them to take the handle off the pump. Even though he couldn't explain why, he managed to persuade them to do it. And the epidemic ended.

Dr. Snow is considered to be the father of public health because instead of treating the victims, he looked for the source of the plague. And because he took immediate action, even though he didn't yet understand the underlying cause of the problem. Epidemiologists today still use some of his pioneering methods.

If you are interested in joining the John Snow Society (I am!) all you have to do is go to London and have a drink at the John Snow Pub, located on the site of the original Broad Street Pump.


  • That's interesting. I love learning stuff like that. Did you read "Galileo's Daughter"? It discusses the plague and why people wore those weird beaky cones on their faces (filled with spices to keep from smelling the putridness of the plague--enjoying dinner?). I highly recommend that book, for a ton of reasons.

    posted by Blogger SuzanH on 6:04 PM  

  • I've never heard of Galileo's Daughter, but it sounds fascinating. Just the title sounds right up my alley. I will definitely check it out. Thanks!

    Stay tuned for another 19th century hero coming your way tomorrow.

    posted by Blogger Julie on 7:58 PM  

  • Yes, b/c I have 2 science degrees, but I always love reading a refresher. Your blog is so interesting. :)

    posted by Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) on 8:37 PM  

  • Loved it! Let it Snow! ;)

    posted by Blogger mrsd on 12:19 PM  

  • Thank you , you just helped me with my public health origins assignment! i am grateful!
    saphire x

    posted by Anonymous Anonymous on 10:34 AM