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The Ghost Map

The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
Johnson, Steven (Book - 2006)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Ghost Map
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From the dynamic thinker routinely compared to Malcolm Gladwell, E. O. Wilson, and James Gleick, The Ghost Map is a riveting page-turner with a real-life historical hero that brilliantly illuminates the intertwined histories of the spread of viruses, rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry. These are topics that have long obsessed Steven Johnson, and The Ghost Map is a true triumph of the kind of multidisciplinary thinking for which he's become famous-a book that, like the work of Jared Diamond, presents both vivid history and a powerful and provocative explanation of what it means for the world we live in. The Ghost Map takes place in the summer of 1854. A devastating cholera outbreak seizes London just as it is emerging as a modern city: more than 2 million people packed into a ten-mile circumference, a hub of travel and commerce, teeming with people from all over the world, continually pushing the limits of infrastructure that's outdated as soon as it's updated. Dr. John Snow--whose ideas about contagion had been dismissed by the scientific community--is spurred to intense action when the people in his neighborhood begin dying. With enthralling suspense, Johnson chronicles Snow's day-by-day efforts, as he risks his own life to prove how the epidemic is being spread. When he creates the map that traces the pattern of outbreak back to its source, Dr. Snow didn't just solve the most pressing medical riddle of his time. He ultimately established a precedent for the way modern city-dwellers, city planners, physicians, and public officials think about the spread of disease and the development of the modern urban environment. The Ghost Map is an endlessly compelling and utterly gripping account of that London summer of 1854, from the microbial level to the macrourban-theory level--including, most important, the human level. Watch a QuickTime trailer for this book.
Authors: Johnson, Steven, 1968-
Title: The ghost map
the story of London's most terrifying epidemic--and how it changed science, cities, and the modern world
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2006
Characteristics: 299 p. :,ill., maps ;,24 cm
Statement of Responsibility: Steven Johnson
ISBN: 1594489254
9781594489259
Branch Call Number: 614.514 J69g 2006
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. [285]-290) and index
Subject Headings: Snow, John, 1813-1858 Cholera England London History 19th century
Topical Term: Cholera
LCCN: 2006023114
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From Library Staff

The story of the London Broad Street cholera epidemic of 1854, a deadly outbreak that decimated London's population in eight days, and two heroic figures: Reverend Henry Whitehead and Dr. John Snow, whose combined efforts in mapping the disease solved the mystery of how cholera spreads and create... Read More »

A massive cholera epidemic rages in London. The how, why, and cultural history of it are explored in this fascinating read.

2010 Everybody Reads


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Jun 27, 2014
  • SpringAltman rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

This book chronicles the 1854 outbreak of cholera in London and a few exceptional men determined to find the cause and how it changed the modern world

May 08, 2014
  • stalzerrita rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This book is fantastic! It's a great factual work describing both cholera itself and the day by day events of the epidemic and the decision-making processes after it. Even more, it shows a real example of how our pre-existing opinions can be hard to shake even when it matters so much.

Apr 20, 2014
  • Janice21383 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A pointed example of mankind's battle against its greatest enemy, well-meaning bone-headedness, and also the story of John Snow, who has a strong claim to be humanity's greatest-ever benefactor, Ghost Map is a thoughtful book, damaged by clumsy writing. The author rambles, airs theories that while interesting, could be better supported, and drops into casual English, possibly with the aim of being "accessible": using "you" instead of "one", "sh*t" instead of "feces", and so on. But clearly, Johnson has it in him to do better. One more draft, with the help of a forthright copy editor, would have done the trick.

May 30, 2012
  • pegcart rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I love how in telling a great story the author teaches me history and also relates it to the world we live in and future implications.

Sep 24, 2011
  • MeReneG rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Fascinating look at how the early days of public health and epidemiology research (and two of its pioneers) solved the 1854 London cholera epidemic -- and helped prevent future outbreaks. // Well worth the read, regardless of your favourite genre.

Feb 03, 2011
  • m2 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Terrific book about how a doctor and a priest determined the cause of London's cholera outbreaks in the summer of 1854 and how their discovery changed science -- and engineering! Very very readable. Historical, scientific and also a facinating human story.

Aug 28, 2010
  • Gardengallivant rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Fascinating look into how people viewed disease and why it was so difficult to come to understand the influences when they could not be directly observed. The deductive reasoning by Dr Snow is an perfect example of why empirical evidence is so important to the scientific method.

Jan 12, 2010
  • neko rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Johnson takes you into the heart of Victorian London gripped by disease. That we are able to walk these old streets and understand its people is an example of an excellently written book.

November 2009 Non-Fiction book club selection

Dec 05, 2009
  • GailRoger rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Very accessible. When I first began reading this, I wondered why the author seemed to veer off on tangents, but as I progressed, his points came together.

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Jun 27, 2014
  • SpringAltman rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

SpringAltman thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

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Jun 27, 2014
  • SpringAltman rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

A cholera outbreak in London causes many to look for the orgin and how to cure the world of this awful epidemic

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EPL Great Stuff - Diego on The Ghost Map

Diego thinks there's no better example of saving the world than following the example of a pure researcher and a street-wise priest in Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map. Check it out at EPL: bit.ly/193fE35

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app08 Version Arkelstorp Last updated 2014/10/23 09:41