Nineteenth-century London was a literal cesspool. Proper sanitation was unheard of and people dumped their waste into the river. Needless to say, disease ran rampant.
While the prevailing theory taught that illness was caused by bad smells, Dr. John Snow knew differently. It had to be the feces-filled drinking water. Devising a system using statistical analysis, he created the Ghost Map, a diagram of all known cholera cases that accurately showed the source of the outbreak: a contaminated Broad Street water pump. The pump’s handle was removed to try to prevent any further victims.
While it took several decades for his work to be taken seriously, he is now considered the father of spatial analysis and epidemiology. In 1992, a water pump memorial was erected in his honor. Nearby at the John Snow pub, visitors can survey artifacts or join the John Snow Society. The organization holds the annual Pumphandle Lectures, where guest speakers discuss the current state of public health. A symbolic removing and changing of a pump handle caps off the ceremony.
Author Steven Johnson spoke about John Snow in his 2007 TED Talk
NOBODY WANTS CHOLERA
BROAD STREET CHOLERA PUMP
Marking the epicenter of London’s 1854 cholera epidemic and the center of John Snow’s historic Cholera Map.
Morbid Mondays highlight macabre stories from around the world and through time, indulging our morbid curiosity for stories from history’s darkest corners. Read more Morbid Mondays>
Join us on Twitter and follow our #morbidmonday hashtag, for new odd and macabre themes: Atlas Obscura on Twitter