Cholera, Chloroform, and the Science of Medicine: A Life of John Snow

Hardcover | July 3, 2003

byPeter Vinten-Johansen, Howard Brody, Nigel Paneth

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The product of six years of collaborative research, this fine biography offers new interpretations of a pioneering figure in anesthesiology, epidemiology, medical cartography, and public health. It modifies the conventional rags to riches portrait of John Snow by synthesizing freshinformation about his early life from archival research and recent studies. It explores the intellectual roots of his commitments to vegetarianism, temperance, and pure drinking water, first developed when he was a medical apprentice and assistant in the north of England. The authors argue thatall of Snow's later contributions are traceable to the medical paradigm he imbibed as a medical student in London and put into practice early in his career as a clinician: that medicine as a science required the incorporation of recent developments in its collateral sciences--chiefly anatomy,chemistry, and physiology--in order to understand the causes of disease. Snow's theoretical breakthroughs in anesthesia were extensions of his experimental research in respiratory physiology and the properties of inhaled gases. Shortly thereafter, his understanding of gas laws led him to rejectmiasmatic explanations for the spread of cholera, and to develop an alternative theory in consonance with what was then known about chemistry and the physiology of digestion. Using all of Snow's writings, the authors follow him when working in his home laboratory, visiting patients throughoutLondon, attending medical society meetings, and conducting studies during the cholera epidemics of 1849 and 1854. The result is a book that demythologizes some overly heroic views of Snow by providing a fairer measure of his actual contributions. It will have an impact not only on theunderstanding of the man but also on the history of epidemiology and medical science.

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The product of six years of collaborative research, this fine biography offers new interpretations of a pioneering figure in anesthesiology, epidemiology, medical cartography, and public health. It modifies the conventional rags to riches portrait of John Snow by synthesizing freshinformation about his early life from archival researc...

David Zuck is at Enfield District Hospitals, UK.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:456 pages, 6.1 × 9.29 × 1.3 inPublished:July 3, 2003Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019513544X

ISBN - 13:9780195135442

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. York and Newcastle, 1813-332. Senior Apprentice and Assistant, 1830-18363. London Medical and Surgical Training, 1836-384. Forging a London Career, 1838-18465. Ether6. Chloroform7. Cholera Theories: Controversy and Confusion8. Snow's Cholera Theory9. Professional Success10. Cholera and Metropolitan Water Supply11. Broad Street12. Snow and the Mapping of Cholera Epidemies13. Snow and the Sanitarians14. Further Developments in Anesthesia15. Common Ground: Continuous Molecular Changes16. Snow's Multiple Legacies

Editorial Reviews

"One of the many strengths of this book is its careful chronological construction that illuminates the logical progression of Snow's work. This book provides a beautifully graphic analysis of how Snow substantiated his theory through the shoe-leather inquiries he personally made into thewater supply of 658 of 860 cholera victims in the 1854 outbreak. This exemplary interdisciplinary biography of one of the greatest doctors is long overdue, but well worth the wait. It replaces the caricature of the socially inept loner with an authoritative portrayal of Snow as a consciencious andconfident medical scientist and practitioner."--The Lancet, Vol. 362, September 6, 2003