Cholera, Chloroform, and the Science of Medicine

Cholera, Chloroform, and the Science of Medicine : A Life of John Snow

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The product of six years of collaborative research, this fine biography offers new interpretations of a pioneering figure in anaesthesiology, epidemiology, medical cartography, and public health. It modifies the conventional rags to riches portrait of John Snow by synthesising fresh information about his early life from archival research and recent studies.

It explores the intellectual roots of his commitments to vegetarianism, temperance, and pure drinking water, first developed when he was a medical apprentice and assistant in the north of England. The authors argue that all of Snow's later contributions are traceable to the medical paradigm he imbibed as a medical student in London and put into practice early in his career as a clinician: that medicine as a science required the incorporation of recent developments in its collateral sciences,
chiefly anatomy, chemistry, and physiology, in order to understand the causes of disease.

Snow's theoretical breakthroughs in anaesthesia were extensions of his experimental research in respiratory physiology and the properties of inhaled gases. Shortly thereafter, his understanding of gas laws led him to reject miasmatic explanations for the spread of cholera, and to develop an alternative theory in consonance with what was then known about chemistry and the physiology of digestion.

Using all of Snow's writings, the authors follow him when working in his home laboratory, visiting patients throughout London, attending medical society meetings, and conducting studies during the cholera epidemics of 1849 and 1854. The result is a book that demythologises some overly heroic views of Snow by providing a fairer measure of his actual contributions. It will have an impact not only on the understanding of the man but also on the history of epidemiology and medical science.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 454 pages
  • 161 x 243 x 29mm | 894g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New
  • numerous black and white photographs and figures
  • 019513544X
  • 9780195135442
  • 1,873,360

Table of contents

Introduction ; 1. York and Newcastle, 1813-1833 ; 2. Senior apprentice and assistant, 1830-1836 ; 3. London medical and surgical training, 1836-1838 ; 4. Forging a London career, 1838-1846 ; 5. Ether ; 6. Chloroform ; 7. Cholera theories: controversy and confusion ; 8. Snow's cholera theory ; 9. Professional success ; 10. Cholera and metropolitan water supply ; 11. Broad street ; 12. Snow and the mapping of cholera epidemics ; 13. Snow and the Sanitarians ; 14. Further developments in anaesthesia ; 15. Common ground: continuous molecular changes ; 16. Snow's multiple legacies
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Review quote

A masterly study written in a very readable way. It will no doubt become a classic in medical history and can be highly recommended. * Neuromuscular Disorders * This exemplary interdisciplinary biography of one of the greatest doctors is long overdue, but well worth the wait. It replaces the caricature of the socially inept loner with an authoritative portrayal of Snow as a conscientious and confident medical scientist and practitioner. This substantial publication... will undoubtedly become the standard reference for Snow... Snow himself would have appreciated the flexibility and lucidity in this work that so characterised
his own. * The Lancet * . . . a masterly study written in a very readable way. It will no doubt become a classic in medical history and can be highly recommended. * JNMD * This biography is the most comprehensive and best-referenced work about John Snow published to date . . . it is likely to remain an essential resource for decades to come. * American Journal of Epidemiology *
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