In 1831, an unknown, horrifying, and deadly disease from Asia swept across continental Europe and North America, killing millions and throwing the medical profession into confusion. A killer with little respect for class or wealth, cholera ravaged the squalid streets of Soho and rocked the great centers of Victorian power. In this gripping book, Sandra Hempel tells the story of John Snow, a reclusive doctor without money or social position, who—alone and unrecognized—had the genius to look beyond the conventional wisdom of his day and uncover the truth behind the pandemic. She describes how Snow discovered that cholera was spread through drinking water and how this subsequently laid the foundations for the modern, scientific investigation of today's fatal plagues.
A dramatic account with a colorful cast of characters, The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump features diversions into fascinating facets of medical and social history, such as Snow's tending of Queen Victoria in childbirth, Dutch microbiologist Leeuwenhoek's deliberate breeding of lice in his socks, Dickensian children's farms, and riotous nineteenth-century anesthesia parties. An afterword discusses the new threat of infectious diseases—including malaria, yellow fever, and cholera—with today's global warming.
Sandra Hempel is a journalist and copywriter. Her work has appeared in The Times, Sunday Times, Guardian, and Mail on Sunday, as well as many other leading publications.
"'The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump' has depth and poignance."—Joan Acocella New Yorker
“The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump is an easy read. Sixteen chapters and 294 pages of well-annotated text provide an informative insight into one of the great sagas of medical history.”—Warren Winkelstein, Jr. Jama
“A well-written and historically accurate rendition of the famous story. . . . A compelling read.”—Michael B. Blank & John Paul Jameson Psyccritiques (3)
"Meticulously researched and with a sophisticated approach to history, this is also an exciting and compelling story. After reading it, I dreamt about being lost and scared at night in the filthy lanes of Victorian London."—Andrew Cunningham, Senior Research Fellow in History of Medicine, University of Cambridge
"This book is one of those rare gems that thrills like fiction but is based on fact. It tells of the clear thought and quiet endeavour of a man who, without seeking honour or fame, persisted in overcoming prejudice and separating fact from fancy. john Snow discovered the way in which epidemic cholera was caught and nearly always killed us. By doing so he not only told the world how to prevent it, he laid the basis for the the prevention of all the world's medical ills—the science of epidemiology."—Dr. Mike Smith, Former NHS Director of Public Health (UK), and current 'resident' GP for Channel 5 News.
"This vivid book about the victories of science over ignorance provides insight as we head towards the next epidemic."—Dr. Paul Volberding, Director of the Center for AIDS Research, University of California, San Francisco
Board of Science Award for the Public Understanding of Science, British Medical Association
Highly Commended, Basis of Medicine category, British Medical Book Competition, British Medical Association