The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

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Synopsis

From the dynamic thinker routinely compared to Malcolm Gladwell, E. O. Wilson, and James Gleick, The Ghost Map is a riveting page-turner with a real-life historical hero that brilliantly illuminates the intertwined histories of the spread of viruses, rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry. These are topics that have long obsessed Steven Johnson, and The Ghost Map is a true triumph of the kind of multidisciplinary thinking for which he's become famous-a book that, like the work of Jared Diamond, presents both vivid history and a powerful and provocative explanation of what it means for the world we live in.

The Ghost Map takes place in the summer of 1854. A devastating cholera outbreak seizes London just as it is emerging as a modern city: more than 2 million people packed into a ten-mile circumference, a hub of travel and commerce, teeming with people from all over the world, continually pushing the limits of infrastructure that's outdated as soon as it's updated. Dr. John Snow—whose ideas about contagion had been dismissed by the scientific community—is spurred to intense action when the people in his neighborhood begin dying.
With enthralling suspense, Johnson chronicles Snow's day-by-day efforts, as he risks his own life to prove how the epidemic is being spread.

When he creates the map that traces the pattern of outbreak back to its source, Dr. Snow didn't just solve the most pressing medical riddle of his time. He ultimately established a precedent for the way modern city-dwellers, city planners, physicians, and public officials think about the spread of disease and the development of the modern urban environment.

The Ghost Map is an endlessly compelling and utterly gripping account of that London summer of 1854, from the microbial level to the macrourban-theory level—including, most important, the human level.



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About Steven Johnson

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STEVEN JOHNSON is the author of the bestsellers The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, Everything Bad Is Good for You, and Mind Wide Open, as well as Emergence and Interface Culture. He is the founder of a variety of influential websites—currently, outside.in—and is a contributing editor to Wired. He lives in Brooklyn, with his wife and sons.
 
Published October 19, 2006 by Riverhead Books. 332 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Nature & Wildlife, Travel, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Business & Economics. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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In addition to telling the story of the outbreak, Johnson offers mini-lessons on related topics: how cholera kills, how Victorian London dealt with its messes, how and why people cling to false theories.

Oct 19 2006 | Read Full Review of The Ghost Map: The Story of L...

The New York Times

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“If you spend time assessing these complex systems and writing about them,” Johnson told his fellow panelists, “then you should be able to take that skill and apply it to a real-world ecosystem or a political system or a cultural system.” Skip to next paragraph Enlarge This Image Mo...

Nov 12 2006 | Read Full Review of The Ghost Map: The Story of L...

BC Books

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Furthermore, as Johnson reveals his compelling and well-considered and comprehensive work, Snow's charting of sanitation and disease control offers lessons for modern city planners, public officials, and physicians, suggesting approaches for the management of urban sprawl, environmental crises, a...

Feb 22 2008 | Read Full Review of The Ghost Map: The Story of L...

BC Books

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Mankind — as Steven Johnson points out in his incisive scientific history The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic — may have become more unified with urbanization and industrialization, but with the onset and entrenchment in 1854 of the worst cholera outbreak in Victorian Lo...

Feb 22 2008 | Read Full Review of The Ghost Map: The Story of L...

Examiner

“Imagine if every time you experienced a slight upset stomach you knew there was an entirely reasonable chance you’d be dead in forty-eight hours…Imagine living with that sword of Damocles hovering above your head – every stomach pain or watery stool a potential harbinger of imminent doom.” Cr...

Nov 23 2010 | Read Full Review of The Ghost Map: The Story of L...

USA Today

The London cholera epidemic of 1854 may be the primary subject of Steven Johnson's thought-provoking The Ghost Map, but it's the many secondary subjects that make it such an engaging read.Johnson builds suspense in detailing the intersecting quests of Dr. John Snow and young clergyman Henry White...

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Oregon Live

“There were terrible problems with unsafe water and with disease, and they just solved them.” Steven Johnson is a Big Idea guy, the author of six books and the creator of several groundbreaking Web sites.

Feb 27 2010 | Read Full Review of The Ghost Map: The Story of L...

About.com

Chapter One of Steven Johnson's account of London's 1854 cholera epidemic is titled, "The Night-Soil Men," referring to those urban scavengers who made their living gathering up human excrement - from outdoor privies, sewers, cesspools, and even the Thames, where much of the human waste was event...

Mar 17 2013 | Read Full Review of The Ghost Map: The Story of L...

Gather Books

Johnson extends the discussion to the nature of cities in general, and describes how the mapping techniques pioneered by John Snow have been integrated into technological solutions that are improving life in modern cities.

Nov 14 2010 | Read Full Review of The Ghost Map: The Story of L...

BellaOnline

Johnson manages to keep the story interesting and humanistic, while providing the many details that surrounded the outbreak.

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Library Journal

Finally, Martin Kemp is one of the most noted scholars on da Vinci and his Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment, and Design directly addresses the ways in which da Vinci thought on paper‚ the subtext of Lester’s exploration of Vitruvian Man.

Feb 29 2012 | Read Full Review of The Ghost Map: The Story of L...

Bookmarks Magazine

Ferdinand Mount Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars "The Ghost Map is a tightly written account until the last 40 pages, which attempt to connect this story to trends and events all the way up to the Iraq war.

Aug 21 2007 | Read Full Review of The Ghost Map: The Story of L...

ReviewingtheEvidence.com

The antagonists are city planning commissioners who prefer the miasmatic theory of sickness, vibrio cholerae, and the Broad Street pump water, which had an ironic reputation as being the purest water in the city.

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TreeHugger

Consequently the authorities started building sewer lines that carried water away from the cesspools and into the Thames, source of much of London's drinking water.

Dec 27 2006 | Read Full Review of The Ghost Map: The Story of L...

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