This site is devoted to the life and times of Dr. John Snow (1813-1858), a legendary figure in the history of public health, epidemiology and anesthesiology.
The following articles describe the intent of the John Snow site and comment about his life.
"When Cholera Met its Match" Science
"John Snow" BBC Online
"The Handle" UAB School of Public Health Magazine
"Popularity of Epi site grows" UCLA School of Public Health Magazine
"Own your Own Words" New York Times
Providing a summary of John Snow's life in Encyclopedia Britannica is UCLA Professor Emeritus Ralph R. Frerichs, author of this site. Frerichs' description is a good starting point for exploring the extensive material on the life and times of John Snow that are here presented.
SIGHT AND SOUND
Sight and sound animation describing the life and accomplishments of John Snow.
Part 3: The Grand Experiment (under consideration)
THE FATHER OF MODERN EPIDEMIOLOGY
In an article in Old News, David Vachon writes of John Snow's life and achievements, and concludes: "For his persistent efforts to determine how cholera was spread and for the statistical mapping methods he initiated, John Snow is widely considered to be the father of [modern] epidemiology."
THE JOHN SNOW MEDAL
In 1971 a bronze medal of John Snow was created by the prominent medallic artist and sculpture Abram Belskie. In addition to Snow, Belskie created nine more medals of distinguished leaders of historical medicine as part of his Great Men of Medicine Series. Dr. John Snow was considered an appropriate member of this prominent nineteenth century group.
The 2010 cholera epidemic in Haiti reminds us that cholera remains a deadly disease, not all that different from the time of John Snow. While Snow debated the appropriateness of the germ versus miasma theories for the cause of the disease, current scientists are focusing on different, but related, hypotheses. The cholera controversies continue in Haiti. We need a modern version of John Snow to help address the truth. Is the modern John Snow out there?
In 2010 a plaque was erected in the Lambeth region of London to remember the cholera epidemic of 1848-49 and the impact it had on the local populace. The plaque provides a gripping tale of what occured in this London neighborhood more than 160 years ago, and mentions the important contributions of Dr. John Snow to addressing the cholera epidemic.
IMPORTANCE OF SNOW
Comments about Dr. John Snow from two of the world's most prominent medical officials.
JOHN SNOW AS "GREATEST DOCTOR"
In a March 2003 survey by Hospital Doctor magazine, John Snow was voted the "greatest doctor" of all time, with Hippocrates (460-370 BC) coming in second. While the poll was likely biased with over-representation of John Snow supporters, the findings do point to the increased prominence of Dr. Snow among contemporary physicians.
IMAGES OF SNOW
Two pictures at 34 and 44 years of age, respectively.
BIOGRAPHY OF SNOW
Written in 1898, 40 years after Snow's death.
Fond remembrances in 1887 by Sir Benjamin W. Richardson, 29 years after Snow's death.
ARTICLES ON JOHN SNOW SINCE 1950 (new addition)
Many journal articles have been written about John Snow in the past half century. They appear here for distribution as PDF files to historians, teachers, students or other interested persons.
BOOKS ON JOHN SNOW
Several books on John Snow have either been written during the past few years or are in process. They range from fiction to non-fiction, children to adult, but all attempt to bring insight to the contributions of Snow to the fields of epidemiology and anesthesiology.
YOUTH ARTICLE ON JOHN SNOW
The Broad Street pump story is featured in Cricket, a magazine for young people, aged 9 and up. Stories such as this on the accomplishments of John Snow help bring the excitement of epidemiology to a younger audience.
The 2009 National History Day gold medal senior paper on John Snow was won by Laura Ball from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Laura has just completed tenth grade at University School of Milwaukee. The 2009 theme of the USA-wide competition was "The Individual in History: Actions and Legacies." Laura's gold medal paper represents the highest honor possible through National History Day in the United States.
ON THE MODE OF COMMUNICATION OF CHOLERA
The historical treatise by John Snow (2nd Ed., London, 1855) for which he is most famous in epidemiology (click above to view his 139 page book)
Snow's views in an 1853 oration of cholera and epidemic diseases in general, showing early understanding of infectious disease epidemiology
ON THE INHALATION OF ETHER
John Snow in 1847 published a book on the use of ether as an anesthetic agent in surgical operations. While his fame in anesthesiology derived from his extensive work with chloroform, he also was a pioneer in the use of ether.
BROAD STREET PUMP OUTBREAK
A well-written summary of the 1854 cholera outbreak in the Soho neighborhood of London.
A You-Tube video by Mike Jay of Medical London on Dr. John Snow and the cholera outbreak of 1854. The video includes the handle-less Broad Street pump in Soho and tours the nearby John Snow pub.
MAPPING THE 1854 BROAD STREET OUTBREAK
John Snow presented two maps of the Broad Street pump outbreak, the first being the most famous and the second offering minor corrections. Other map makers have tried to improve on his originals, using dots rather than bars, but with less success.
REMOVAL OF THE PUMP HANDLE
Following the outbreak of cholera in the Broad Street area in 1854, did removing the handle from the Broad Street pump stop the local epidemic?
ABBEY-ROW PUMP WELL OUTBREAK
John Snow wrote of a small outbreak in 1857 in eastern London, just outside the area covered by the 1859 map of John Snow's London.
JOHN SNOW'S EARLY YEARS
His life and family from birth to age 23 years, when he started his formal medical education (click first).
JOHN SNOW'S MEDICAL EDUCATION
Describes his formal education, experience in a hospital, and medical certification (click first).
JOHN SNOW'S FINAL REST
His death, including likely cause, and the monument erected to commemorate his life.
Letters of Remembrance
PRINCIPAL WRITINGS OF JOHN SNOW
During his short but active life, Snow contributed 107 publications (including many letters to the editors) to the scientific literature.
The following maps, linked with names and dates in the text, are used to view John Snow's history and narrations in place and time.
1818 MAP OF LONDON PRE-JOHN SNOW
Cary's map of London in 1818 shows the city prior to the arrival of John Snow, still living in York (center left) with his parents at aged 5 years. This large historical map with 27 panels was published by John Cary in early 1818.
1846 MAP OF LONDON DURING JOHN SNOW
Cruchley's map of London in 1846 shows the city a decade after John Snow's arrival in 1836. This delicate paper map, purchased by people for every-day-use, provides details of the City in 25 panels. The map was first published in 1827 and updated every few years thereafter.
All the water companies mentioned by John Snow in his book are presented for the mid-1850s in a contour map of London and its environs. The 1856 map is similar but more detailed than John Snow's Map 2 of 1854.
John Snow's life outside of London can be view in a map of England and Wales that comes from a rare edition of Colton's Atlas of the World, published for a short while in 1856.
Sites of John Snow's life and investigations in a historical map published by James Reynolds in 1859.
1872 MAP OF LONDON REGION POST-JOHN SNOW
Wyld's map of the the country 25 miles round London shows the region during John Snow's adult life and following his death in 1858. The map was acquired by cartographer James Wyld from William Faden in 1823, and then periodically updated until 1880. The presented map is the penultimate 1872 edition, nearly identical to the 1865 edition and very similar to the 1850 edition.
Panorama view of London along the River Thames from Vauxhall Bridge (to the west) to the Isle of Dogs (to the east) derived from a wood engraving by Smyth in 1845.
PHOTO TOUR OF JOHN SNOW'S LONDON
Photos of current sites in the Soho Region of London that were meaningful to John Snow one and a half centuries earlier.
HISTORY OF LONDON'S WATER
Water played a central role in John Snow's legacy, as he explained the spread of deadly cholera. Adrian Prockter presents the history of water acquisition in London, and sets the stage for the dramatic events of the mid-1800s that terrified this great city.
PHOTO TOUR OF HISTORY OF S&V WATER COMPANY
The Southwark and Vauxhall (S&V) Water Company was created in 1845 by merger of existing waterworks. The water intake from the River Thames of the merged company remained in the heart of London, supplying contaminated water which eventually included waste of cholera patients, as investigated by John Snow in his "grand experiment." Water contamination remained, until S&V moved its intake upriver in 1855 to Hampton. Adrian Prockter presents images of the formation of S&V, bringing visual life to an important event in the history of London.
PHOTO TOUR OF LAMBETH WATER WORKS UNTIL 1852
In his "grand experiment," John Snow demonstrated that persons drinking contaminated Thames River water were more likely to experience cholera then those drinking clean water. After 1852, the Lambeth Waterworks became the source of clean water, leaving the Southwark and Vauxhall Water Company to provide contaminated water. Adrian Prockter presents text and images of the area by the Lambeth Waterworks prior to the company moving upstream.
PHOTO TOUR OF LAMBETH WATERWORKS AFTER 1852
Seeking cleaner water to supply London, the Lambeth Waterworks in 1852 relocated well-upstream to Thames Ditton along the River Thames. Adrian Prockter, in images and text, provides a current view of the historical move, which enabled Snow's "grand experiment" of 1854. This classic epidemiologic investigation offered compelling evidence that cholera was waterborne.
PHOTO TOUR OF TIDAL RIVER THAMES
The River Thames had much to do with the epidemic spread of cholera in nineteenth century London. When the water companies were told by Parliament in 1852 to move their intakes up river to above Teddington Lock, it served as a major step in improving the drinking water. One company (Lambeth) complied quickly, and the other (Southwark and Vauxhall) waited until the last minute, right before the August, 1855 deadline. When cholera reappeared in London during the mid-1800s, the delayed move of the Southwark and Vauxall company provided the basis for Snow's "grand experiment." Adrian Proctor offers a photo tour of these historical times.
COMPETING THEORIES OF CHOLERA
Some like William Farr believed that cholera was caused by bad air or miasmata while others favored John Snow's germ theory. Snow, perhaps, favored too strongly his theory which proved true for cholera but not for all diseases, especially those caused by environmental pollutants.
WHO FIRST DISCOVERED VIBRIO CHOLERA?
While Robert Koch is often identified as the first person to identify Vibrio cholerae as the causative agent of cholera (1884), the honor rightfully goes to Filippo Pacini who first identified the organism in 1854.
Biological, medical and epidemiological description by the World Health Organization (WHO) of Vibrio cholerae the agent causing Cholera. WHO also reports cholera outbreaks making news in various regions of the world, and often includes a map of the outbreak site.
During John Snow's life time there were three pandemics of Asiatic cholera (1817-23, 1826-37 and 1846-63), two of which reached the British isles.
CHOLERA: TRACKING THE FIRST TRULY GLOBAL DISEASE
In a National Geographic presentation, Sharon Guynup captures the feelings of the times, as historical London contends with disease, stench and filth.
Dr. Andrew Hayward presents the history of cholera, including John Snow's contributions, in a Supercourse lecture.
CHOLERA AND HIV EPIDEMICS
Cholera in the nineteenth century has much in common with current HIV/AIDS, both in fear and confusion over solutions.
VICTORY IN SIGHT
A sense of both John Snow and the significance of his work comes forth in this well-crafted chapter from King Cholera (1966) by Norman Longmate.
Reflections by R.J. Morris on what was learned in England following the first cholera epidemic of 1831-32, to help prepare for London's epidemics of 1848-49 and 1853-54.
ANESTHESIA AND QUEEN VICTORIA
Dr. Snow was also prominent as an anesthesiologist. He administered chloroform to the Queen on two occasions.
AN ANESTHETIC CONTROVERSY
When he thought he was right, John Snow was not adverse to controversy. The story, Death in Bristol, started in February 1858, four months before Snow's death. It was his last published exchange, but involving anesthesiology rather than epidemiology.
THE ILL-FATED BARNES FAMILY
An innocent looking package that arrived during the holidays brought devastation to a family in central England.
LOCATION OF WATER COMPANIES
In 1854, John Snow analyzed the grand experiment, a natural study of the association between water exposure and cholera. This section tells what happened and the location of the water companies that provided the exposure.
VISUAL DISPLAY OF JOHN SNOW
The famed Edward R. Tufte has thoughts on John Snow and his visual display of Broad Street cholera cases.
MAP-MAKING AND MYTH-MAKING
Did John Snow use a map of cholera deaths near Broad Street in 1854 to identify a contaminated pump? The authors of a July 1, 2000 article in The Lancet believe the story is more involved, and certainly more fascinating.
While William Farr supplied John Snow with epidemiologic data, he differed with Snow for many years on the interpretation of the findings. The author of this 2000 article in the Journal of Medical Biography presents an interesting account of Farr, often viewed as the "father" of modern vital and health statistics.
John Snow and William Farr had different theories on the cause of cholera. Farr during his lifetime had more scientific supporters but Snow eventually reached greater fame, arising from being right. Historian John Eyler authors a thoughtful article on the changing assessment of these two scientists, then versus now.
LONDON EPIDEMIOLOGICAL SOCIETY
John Snow was a founding member of one of the first professional societies devoted to epidemiology.
JOHN SNOW PUB
A London pub honoring the life and legend of John Snow.
Founded in 1993, the John Snow Society aims to promote the life and works of Dr John Snow as anesthetist and pioneer of epidemiological methods. In 2001, the Society became part of the Royal Institute of Public Health, London.
John Snow lives on at the University of Durham, Stockton-on-Tees, England where a college bears his name.
The National Health Service building in Durham, England was named the John Snow House, in honor of Dr. Snow. A plaque describes his link to the region and the reasons for his fame.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medical has named a state-of-the art lecture theater after Dr. John Snow. Doing so continues the memory among future public health leaders of Snow's thoughts and accomplishments
The epidemiological investigations of John Snow are featured in a Young Epidemiology Scholars (YES) program module created for high school students. The YES program inspires high school students and teachers to learn about epidemiology and public health issues.
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