In the 1831 an unknown, horrifying and deadly
disease from Asia swept across Continental Europe,
killing millions in its path and throwing the medical profession into chaos.
Cholera was a killer with little respect for
class or wealth, and when it arrived in Britain its repercussions rocked
Victorian England – from the filthy lanes of the Sunderland quayside and the
squalid streets of Soho to the great centers of power:
the Privy Council, Whitehall and the Royal Medical Colleges.
One man – alone and unrecognized – uncovered the
truth behind the pandemic and laid the foundations for
the modern, scientific investigation of today's fatal plagues. John Snow was a
reclusive doctor, without money or social position, who had the genius to look beyond the conventional wisdom of his day.
Serious-minded yet deeply compassionate, he refused to
give up his quest to explain cholera, despite
being ignored and dismissed by his own profession.
Drawing extensively on nineteenth-century medical, political
and personal records, The Medical Detective (renamed The Strange Case of the Broad Street
Pump) paints a vivid picture of the medical
society of the day and is full of colorful characters and practices, from
doctors at Westminster Hospital dueling on Clapham Common, to Dickensian
children's farms, to riotous Victorian
anesthesia parties. Amidst this emerges the dramatic story of an important
breakthrough for medical science, and of one individual's determination to use
science to help his fellow man.
Sandra Hempel is a journalist and copywriter who specializes
in health and social issues. She has worked for many leading newspapers and
magazines, including The Times, Sunday Times, Guardian and Mail on
Sunday, as well as for the Department of Health and the NHS. She lives in
London with her two daughters.
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