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The Ghost Map: The Story of London's…

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and… (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Steven Johnson

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2,5511272,363 (3.94)2 / 223
Title:The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
Authors:Steven Johnson
Info:Riverhead Trade (2007), Edition: 1 Reprint, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson (2006)


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English (125)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (127)
Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
This is not only an excellent account of the historical events around the cholera epidemic in the 1850's but it also incorporates intelligent interpretation of the events into the past and future of our combat with epidemics and mass death. I truly enjoyed the book from a point of interest and also enjoyed the masterful ability to see a causal chain of events. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone with some interest either in history or in science (specifically microbiology or epidemiology). ( )
  GlennBell | May 10, 2015 |
This was mediocre nonfiction about a cholera outbreak in 1850s London and the two men who figured out that the source of the infection was the water in the neighborhood. This led to changes in sanitation. I found that part all pretty interesting. I did not, however, really enjoy the author's conclusions about connections to modern day city life. I thought they were a bit of a stretch and just not as interesting.

The reader of this audiobook was ok, but his voice sounded a little contrived to me. Just trying too hard to sound academic.

Anyway, it kept me mildly entertained on my commute, but I wouldn't rush out to find it. ( )
  japaul22 | Apr 1, 2015 |
The Ghost Map tells the story of London's worst cholera epidemic and the men who worked to identify the true cause of that disease's contraction and spread. Steven Johnson described the fear and dread widespread in London as this disease devastated families in the Soho section of the city. However, I felt like the book never really established that feeling as strongly as it could have. The story of how John Snow and Henry Whitehead collaborated to use maps, anecdotal evidence, and scientific research to demonstrate that cholera was water-based and not the result of miasma was very interesting, particularly as they challenged the medical establishment of the mid-19th century.

I got the sense this book could almost have been the product of a dissertation as the final chapter explored the 21st century implications and connections to the Ghost Map. Johnson made a lot of interesting points, but I didn't really feel like his conclusion connected to the historical story as well as I would have liked. It's a good book, but probably not one that I'd pick up and read again. ( )
  mfedore | Jan 17, 2015 |
I scarcely know where to begin in Ghost Maps
It is truly a multidimensional book.
I'll stay with my original reason for reading and highlight medical aspects.

It's summer 1854 and the site is London.
We have an emerging metropolis with a population over two million and our infrastructure standards are
are Elizabethan.
Waste management is nil and water is sewage polluted.
An epidemic ensues and 10% of the population is dead in 7 days.
The situation was terrifying.
There was scientific confusion.
The pathogen later was identified as a comma shaped bacterium and named vibrio cholerae

The miasma theory held that diseases such as cholera, chlamydia or the Black Death were caused by a miasma (Μίασμα, ancient Greek: "pollution"), a noxious form of "bad air"
The theory held that the origin of epidemics was due to a miasma, emanating from rotting organic matter."

Enter Dr John Snow
"John Snow (15 March 1813 – 16 June 1858) was an English physician and a leader in the adoption of anaesthesia and medical hygiene.
He is considered one of the fathers of modern epidemiology, in part because of his work in tracing the source of the cholera outbreak in Soho, London, in 1854."

Dr John Snow expounded a partially correct theory that cholera was spread through water.

By tireless effort of testing water and talking to local residents (with the help of Reverend Henry Whitehead), he identified the source of the outbreak as the public water pump on Broad Street.

The ghost maps that they assembled were dot maps used to illustrate the cluster of cholera cases around the pump.
Deaths dots or dashes highlighted the Broad Street pump.

Throughout the read, we meet city residents, the doctors chasing the disease, the medical detective Rev Henry Whitehead and the pathogen itself....
Finally we see how this epidemic initiated profound changes in science, in city managment and modern society in general.

I found Steven Johnson (the author) to be an intriguing thinker.
The scope of his research is impressive and Alan Sklar did an fine job of narration.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 14, 2015 |
Ghost Map is a very well researched, well written account of the events that took place during the 1850's London Cholera outbreak. Mr. Johnson does a great job of presenting the realities of life and death in this time period in a way that, while bleak and disgusting at times, brings the reader into his story and participate as an observer as these events unfold. It's not a pleasant book, but it is very informative and a lot of what takes place had such a huge impact on the future of society as we know it that this is also a very important book.

Kansas State University has selected this book as their common read for the 2014-2015 school year and I'm interested in seeing how much involvement we get from the students on this one. There is a lot of potential to work topics from the book into Chemistry or Biology curricula and especially into the Public Health areas on campu as well as Sociology, Urban Planning and many other areas. ( )
  StefanY | Jul 1, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
To nonfiction book writers: if you want your book to sell, make huge, dramatic claims with your title and/or subtitle. If you want your book to be a bestseller, you actually have to fulfill those claims. Steven Johnson has done both, again and again.

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Steven Johnsonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gibson, BenjaminCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sklar, AlanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"A Klee painting named 'Angelus Novus' shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistably propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress."
—Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History"
For the women in my life:

My mother and sisters, for their amazing work
on the front lines of public health

Alexa, for the gift of Henry Whitehead

and Mame, for introducing me to London so many years ago . . .
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It is August 1854, and London is a city of scavengers.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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From Amazon: 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 of the spread of disease, 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.
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An account of the worst cholera outbreak in Victorian London--and an exploration of how Dr. John Snow's solution revolutionized the way we think about disease in cities. In the summer of 1854, a devastating cholera outbreak seized London just as it was emerging as a modern city. Author Johnson chronicles Snow's day-by-day efforts as he risked his own life to prove how the epidemic was being spread. When he created the map that traced the pattern of outbreak back to its source, Dr. Snow didn't just solve a pressing medical riddle--he established a precedent for the way modern city-dwellers, city planners, physicians, and public officials think about the spread of disease and the development of the modern urban environment.--From publisher description.… (more)

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