61.The Ghost Map-Steven Johnson

Thursday, April 03, 2008
The Ghost Map is about one of London's worst outbreaks of Cholera which occurred in 1854 and the work of the two men who ultimately helped to discover its cause. Chances are you've never heard of Dr. John Snow or the Reverend Henry Whitehead, the two men Johnson featured in his book. You should. While their work in a small neighbourhood in Soho, London might not seem that significant at the time or perhaps even now, their efforts are certainly put into perspective when you read this book.

Oh sure, you may have heard about Joseph Bazelgette, the man who designed the London sewer system and cleaned up the Thames. However, without the street level, person-to-person investigations the other two men did, the state of waste removal (or lack thereof) in our cities would have a completely different look. Their efforts to control an outbreak of the deadly disease in one small neighbourhood ultimately led to massive public works projects in major cities around the world, a new revolutionary way of mapping, and the end of cholera (relatively speaking).

Johnson ends his book with a look a the future of cities, the evolution of our population from rural to urban dwellers, and the potentials of biological warfare. While not a "must read", it's a lively engaging look at a subject most people would likely steer clear of. Well written, easy to read, and a perfect length at under 300 pages. Captain recommended.

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