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The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
In The Ghost Map, Steven Johnson tells of the cholera epidemic that gripped London in 1854. The popular belief at the time was the disease was caused by miasma - bad, smelly air that permeated the city. A physician named John Snow believed that the cholera was caused by the water, and clergyman Henry Whitehead set out to prove him wrong. Together the two men proved Snow was right. It was Snow's "ghost map," showing the relationship of where people died in relation to their water source, that convinced the city leaders to take the appropriate action. Steven Johnson uses the story of the cholera outbreak to show how cities, past and present, continue to deal with problems caused by large concentrations of people living in crowded areas. The Ghost Map has received positive reviews with BookPage saying, "More substantially, though, he portrays London not just as a political and geographical entity but also as a living organism that must nourish and renew itself to survive. He enlivens what might have been dry-as-dust science reporting with vividly drawn characters and copious literary references. Better still, he allows his own enthusiasm for such flashes of human ingenuity to shine through."