The Ghost Map
Steven Johnson
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Buy *The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic & How It Changed Science, Cities, & the Modern World* by Steven Johnson online

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic & How It Changed Science, Cities, & the Modern World
Steven Johnson
320 pages
October 2006
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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From best selling author of Everything Bad Is Good For You comes the thoroughly engrossing The Ghost Map. The book is broken up into eight chapters with an epilogue and a preface. It’s also broken down by date (Monday, August 28th through Friday, September 8th) with each chapter getting a title as it chillingly tracks the London cholera breakout from its inception to its conclusion. The opening chapter, entitled “The Night Soil-Men,” paints the picture of the scavenging lower class of London of the time:

“It is August 1854, and London is a city of scavengers. Just the names alone read now like some kind of exotic zoological catalogue: bone-pickers, rag-gatherers, pure-finders, dredgermen, mud-larks, sewer-hunters, dustmen, night-soil men, bunters, toshers, and shoremen. These were the London underclasses, at least a hundred thousand strong. So immense were their numbers that had the scavengers broken off and formed their own city, it would have been the fifth largest in all of England.”
Essentially, The Ghost Map is a story about filth - the absolute filth and waste that was pushed out of two million people in Victorian London. For example, the pure finders weren’t looking for anything even remotely as pure as the driven snow: pure was slang for dog poop.

It’s also a story about science and religion and how, on August 28, 1854, a working–class commoner named Sarah Lewis tossed a bucket of soiled water from her apartment and started the deadliest outbreak of cholera in history. When many of the poor started getting sick, the prevailing thought at the time was that it was the excavation of a burial ground nearby. But through the hard work and dogged determination of Dr. John Snow and Reverend Henry Whitehead, they were able to show that “Vibrio Cholerae” had been the culprit all along. The water, soiled by Sarah Lewis cleaning her sick baby, had reached the neighborhood water pump, contaminating it with the disease and making ill everyone who drank from it. Overall, The Ghost Map is a brilliant and illuminating read that changed how cities dealt with (and made more efficient) the removal of waste.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Bobby Blades, 2007

buy *The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic & How It Changed Science, Cities, & the Modern World* online
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