The Curious Case of Dr. John Snow - Parker & Sons

Nope! This isn’t the John Snow you are thinking about. Last we saw him he was bleeding in the snow as the final episode of Game of Thrones season 5 cut to black. This John Snow is a much more real, and much more important historical figure. He was a scientist, a doctor, a problem solver, and as it turns out, a lifesaver. How did he save lives exactly? By solving a London plumbing problem, that’s how! Let’s set the scene.

When: The 19th century. 1854 to be exact

Where: London, England. Soho suburb.

Who: Dr. John Snow, 500 deceased victims of cholera, a woman, a baby.

Well now, this all sounds very curious indeed. How does this story play out?
19th century London had almost no infrastructure in place for the disposal of human waste. Essentially, they had little to no plumbing. Individuals would dump their waste into massive communal cesspools, or even directly into the river Thames. The river was also London’s primary source of water. This was a problem, but unfortunately no one knew it yet. However, one man had a suspicion, Dr. John Snow.

Dr. John Snow believe that human waste could be directly linked to the spread of disease. The thing was, no one really believed him. They thought getting sick had something to do with vapors, or a “miasma”, whatever that is. It wasn’t until 1854 he was finally able to gain some traction on his idea.

A particularly devastating outbreak of cholera was striking London’s Soho district. Dr. Snow knew it had to be caused by improper waste disposal. Turns out, he was 100 percent correct. He traced the outbreak to a cistern on Broad Street where a woman had been cleaning dirty diapers. When down officials shut down the pump, the outbreak ended!

Maybe if London had modern plumbing and a proper waste disposal system, the devastating outbreak would have never happened. Remember folks, plumbing isn’t just convenient, it saves lives.


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