The Ghost Map By Steven Johnson

1030 WordsFeb 26, 20165 Pages
Since the middle ages, the best scientific minds were convinced that they knew the cause of human diseases; diseases were caused by poisonous vapors or miasma in the air around us. Miasmatics believed that it was easy to detect when diseases were present, because the air smelled foul. The idea that diseases could be transmitted in other ways, such as through water, was seen as such a ridiculous notion that the theory of waterborne illness was summarily dismissed. Diseases were caused by miasma, “What more do you need?” (Johnson 185). In his book “The Ghost Map”, Steven Johnson argues that because of this belief, Victorian society was ignoring one of the greatest causes of human disease, an inefficient waste management system. Johnson recounts the historical account of two men, Doctor John Snow and Henry Whitehead, an Oxford educated Anglican Priest. These two men were uniquely qualified to challenge the notion of miasma. Together they presented the theory that the water people were drinking and a poor waste removal system were the causes of cholera epidemics that would frequently sweep through London. In early city life, one of the most significant discomforts was the smell. Large amounts of humans, living close together, with very poor sanitation systems, create a stench that is almost unbearable. Steven Johnson argues that this is one of the significant reasons that miasma theory was so persuasive as to the cause of diseases, smell creates such a strong reaction in
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