Early 19th-century London still had quite a few advances to make, including a safe and efficient waste management system. This turned into a deadly problem when, in 1854, the Broad Street pump began dispensing cholera with its water supply. It took eight days before the source of the cholera was suspected and access to the pump was removed, but it took even longer before public health and government officials were willing to let go of the idea that the outbreak was a result of "miasma"--an airborne pathogen--and accept the fact that water can transmit diseases as well. By the end of this disaster, over 600 people had died. This exciting, terrifying, and wonderfully disgusting book follows the crusade of Dr. John Snow and the Reverend Henry Whitehead, which would ultimately change the way we view health and disease, urban planning, the environment, and even biological and nuclear warfare.
I had so much fun listening to The Ghost Map. To be sure, it is not for the squeamish--the details of living conditions in London and the ways in which cholera destroys the body will make you think twice every time you turn on the faucet (and thank MSD each time as well). But if you're like me and can revel in the putrescence and have a fascination with epidemiology, you will find a thoroughly enjoyable and eye-opening blend of history, biology, and sociology. Highly recommended!