Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
I've been devouring a couple of books lately, so I thought I would talk about this one before Christmas Cheer or old age (or both) hit me. Ghost Map traces the 1894 Cholera epidemic in London which not only hit a high percentage of Londoners in a specific community, but also encouraged a scientific quest that rid many cities of the scourge that is cholera. I was amazed that the fine details of what happened in August of that year were recorded and Johnson was able to craft a compelling story of urban life and science. [You may now pause to thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that libraries have stewarded the written word for centuries.]
Ghost Map also reminded me that there are many men and women of science who have made incredible discoveries and yet still remain largely unknown. With science, as with all things, we tend to focus on the Einsteinian events and personalities, ignoring the equally brilliant minds that have made discoveries throughout history. I was particularly enthralled with Johnson's description of how John Snow managed to overcome the dogma of the day, that disease was spread by miasma, or nasty smells. Ghost Map was definitely worth reading and one I would recommend, but I didn't finish it with the same sense I started with. Johnson gets a little preachy at the end, especially about the merits of living in cities. I disagree with his assertion that many modern cities are less polluting and greener than a country town, especially when cities like Victoria B.C. still spill raw sewage into the ocean. It's clear we still have a long way to go - city and country. One only need read Grabage Land by Elizabeth Royte to understand how mega-cities like New York can impact people living outside the thoughts of those riding the subway.