The Ghost Map asks the reader to imagine a situation in which ”you could leave town for a weekend and come back to find 10 percent of your neighbors being wheeled down the street in death carts.” For inhabitants of mid-19th-century London, cholera rendered this apocalyptic vision a terrifying reality (as is true in many countries today). Steven Johnson traces the courageous and ultimately successful attempt by an anesthetist/scientist/sleuth named John Snow to discover how the disease was transmitted. And he does so in a way that brings to nightmarish, thought-provoking life a world in which a swift but very unpleasant death can be just a glass of water away.
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