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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