When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

16 November 2006

The birth of urban public health

Cool! Steven Johnson is now blogging at the New York Times:

In late August of 1854, in London’s crowded working-class neighborhood of Soho, a 5-month-old girl fell ill with cholera, and unleashed a chain of events that ultimately helped shape the world we live in today. The girl — known only as a “Baby Lewis” — lived with her parents, Sarah and Thomas Lewis, at 40 Broad Street, across from a public water pump known throughout Soho for its reliably clean and cool water. When Sarah Lewis emptied out the water she had used to clean her child’s soiled linens, a small amount of that waste found its way into the well beneath the Broad Street pump, thanks to decaying brickwork that separated the well from the cesspool in the Lewises’ basement.

Within 36 hours, one of the most explosive outbreaks of cholera in the history of London erupted throughout the neighborhood. By the end, some two weeks later, 10 percent of the Lewises’ neighbors were dead, and far more would have perished had so many residents not fled in terror.

Metropolis Rising (Steven Johnson, Urban Planet, New York Times, 15 November 2006)

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