I lost steam for reading this one mid-way through, but slogged on because I had so much pent-up anticipation for the book prior to getting it. He lost me as soon as he digressed into the whole “hunter-gatherer turned farmer changed the world” sacred-cow of modern history. The work is a look at the history of the cholera epidemic in London, how 2 amateur scientists proved the disease was water-borne instead of the widely held “miasma” theory of bad air. John Snow pinpointed the source of the breakout at the Broad Street pump, and created the “ghost map” of deaths from a birds eye view, with circles around neighborhoods to show which water pump was the most convenient.
One of the more graphic scenes was the description of Fanny Burney’s mastectomy sans anesthetic; to depict the tenor of the medical times & to show Snow’s pioneering work in ether studies.
Johnson also goes on a blah-de-blah lovefest of the 311 system in NYC, where the city learns from its citizens on the street who are reporting data, which if critical mass is reached, becomes a topic the mayor addresses.
sub=The story of London’s most terrifying epidemic – and how it changed science, cities, and the modern world