Tuesday, December 19, 2006

In praise of The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson

Absolutely wonderful read - instructive on many levels.

Most of the reviews of Steven Johnson's "The Ghost Map" have focussed upon the map itself. The strength of the book likes in its exposition of:
  • How the 1800s bureaucracy of public health had anchored upon the "miasmic" theory of disease at the cost of not seeing or considering *other* data which could point to the vector for cholera.
  • The gritty analytical "hard work" done to identify the sources and courses of the epidemic
  • The vivid description of the horrors of Dickens' London. As a contemporary, Dickens presumed a common point of refrence to the squalor. Mr. Johnson makes the despair and filth vivid for the contemporary reader.

What a (gritty) great read which should, I believe, augment courses in Public Health, Management Science, History, and English Literature. The meta book is the profound overall cautionary and instructive impact of his writing.

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