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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sorry tale of the establishment ignoring the truth, 21 Sep 2006
By 
Bluebell (UK) - See all my reviews
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An engrossing story of the missed opportunities by the medical and political establishment to see the truth about how cholera is spread. To modern eyes the evidence carefully collected by John Snow seems obvious and the delays in implementing the precautions to stop the spread criminal. The book is not just a highly readable 'detective' story of how the truth emerged, but also a salutory reminder of how entenched views of any kind of establishment are very difficult to shift, particularly by someone who is not one of their own; and how the needs of commerce, in this case water companies, can override the protection of the public's health.

This book can be enjoyed by anyone interested how scientific/medical advances are made and how often it's a slow business with more than one person contributing to the final truth. It can also be enjoyed by those of us employed in trying to find these truths and remind us to be open-minded about things that don't fit our preconceived beliefs.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Read, 6 Sep 2007
This review is from: The Medical Detective: John Snow, Cholera and the Mystery of the Broad Street Pump (Paperback)
This is a fantastic tale of Victorian London, which though at heart is a medical tale, it's ultimately detective work that triumphs over the medical establishment. In the mid-1800s as cholera began to sweep Europe the medical establishment were at a loss, this was before the germ theory of disease and most medical treatment tended still to do more harm. Cholera whilst reasonably lethal to humans can be easily avoided as long as one avoids drinking from a contaminated water supply. Perhaps and observation for us to make today, but in a world before microbes this was still a large leap to make. Hempel skilfully weaves her tale of 19th century London telling us how Jon Snow through is grand experiment managed to unravel the mystery of cholera, along the way were introduced to a whole host of other characters from Florence Nightingale to Queen Victoria and well as presented with many fascinating facts and historical anecdotes. The prose is highly readable having an almost novel like quality to it, the story fascinating and more importantly we witness the legacy that the great cholera outbreaks still have on our society today.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing from start to finish, 24 Sep 2007
By 
G. Sam Pouch (Ireland.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Medical Detective: John Snow, Cholera and the Mystery of the Broad Street Pump (Paperback)
It was through the BBC series "Seven wonders of the Industrial World" that I first learned of the life and work of Dr John Snow and it was this that prompted me to buy Sandra Hempel's book, and I am so glad I did. It is a first rate story of one mans quest to understand and treat a terrfying disease and of the fierce opposition he faced from his peers, it is also a magnificent insight into society, disease and some of the appalling treatments metered out to try and cure patients in Victorian England. If nothing else after reading this book you may not looks at the NHS in such a poor light, considering how you would have been treated one hundred and fifty years ago.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly engrossing and informative, 18 Nov 2009
This review is from: The Medical Detective: John Snow, Cholera and the Mystery of the Broad Street Pump (Paperback)
This was a very illuminating and intelligent read that manages to combine fascinating social history with the struggle of an individual to make himself heard, without either grandiloquising nor over-simplifying. I finished the book in a single (day-long) sitting, such was my attention held! What did strike me, even more than the achievements of John Snow, was how the medical and political establishment were so reluctant to make a decisive connection between choleraic effluent infecting the water supply, when it seems so staringly obvious. So in the end my abiding impression was not of the quiet genius of John Snow, but rather the blinding stupidity of all the other alleged 'experts'. But I think the author struck this balance rather effectively, and in fact John Snow was not glorified or made heroic by the narrative, but the whole thing rather carried itself as a quiet tragedy, with so many people needlessly dying because of the blind illogic of the establishment. Truly many lessons to be learned from this excellent book. Recommended to academics and laypeople alike for its accessible yet thorough style, with both footnotes and cliffhangers aplenty.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Snow - Medical Hero., 22 Feb 2010
By 
J. Cook "Anna" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Medical Detective: John Snow, Cholera and the Mystery of the Broad Street Pump (Paperback)
We all take our fresh water supply for granted nowadays, but if we had lived a hundred and fifty years ago we would have had the pleasure of our water being pumped directly from a sewage ridden river or from a well that was susceptible to contamination. This is a fabulous book about Dr.John Snow and how he discovered that the outbreaks of cholera were due to drinking polluted water and not through breathing in foul air, which was the general consensus of the "experts" of the day". He really was a medical detective and comes across as a truly inspirational human being, not out for any financial gain, but a man of inherent kindness and dignity. His unutterable vocation to his work doubtless saved thousands of lives and could have saved thousands more if only he had been taken seriously sooner. This is a great read and I would recommend it to anyone who likes social or medical history or just enjoys a really good story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly a 5 star read ..., 24 Aug 2009
This review is from: The Medical Detective: John Snow, Cholera and the Mystery of the Broad Street Pump (Paperback)
This book is full of interesting facts presented in a fascinating way. It follows a story of a quiet, but determined doctor to discover the truth behind the reoccurring epidemics and it's that journey that will keep you on the edge of your sit. The arguments among the medical professionals are incredible, every time you hope for a final breakthrough there is another setback and the journey means that you won't be able to put the book down. What is also fascinating is how the author managed to add other interesting medical facts including a royal birth with newly discovered methods of pain killers. There are all kind of interesting stories and the way it's added together makes the book truly a 5 star read!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History with current relevance, 30 April 2006
By 
KM (Cornwall) - See all my reviews
Excellent history of the discovery of how a killer disease was transmitted; informative and readable. The dramatic account of the authorities in Whitehall watching the approach of cholera across Europe and having no real idea of how to deal with it has parallels with the current dread of bird flu. The medical and social background to the story in Victorian England are vividly presented.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rip-roaring read through cholera-struck London & the life of a medical pioneer, 27 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Medical Detective: John Snow, Cholera and the Mystery of the Broad Street Pump (Paperback)
As someone who does who does not often read, I can thoroughly recommend this book which I borrowed from a library on a Saturday afternoon and had finished by the following Wednesday, having read it at every available moment in between.

While John Snow's life and work on cholera provides the narrative thread around which the rest of the book is written, the book covers so much more than this and is accessible to readers such as myself who do not come from medical backgrounds.
Indeed, the book is a fascinating insight into the history of medicine, at least, its state in the 19th century. Beyond Snow's work on cholera, interesting enough in itself, and cholera's effects on vicitms and advance across the world from its apparent origins in 1817 India, Hempel's book offers an illustration of healthcare as it existed in Victorian Britain.
The text includes discussion of how doctors were trained, which treatments they offered, and their now disproved theories regarding the spread of disease. The book also describes the dawn of anaesthesia, in which Snow had played a significant part, as well as the deplorable social conditions of the working class in Dickensian Britain.

The only addition which might have made the book even more readable would have been the provision of more maps to describe the areas in question.

Hempel's book is a fascinating tribute to John Snow's work and one which I am already considering buying, so that I can read it again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Frightening look at public health in the nineteenth century, 19 Nov 2014
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This review is from: The Medical Detective: John Snow, Cholera and the Mystery of the Broad Street Pump (Paperback)
This book is so interesting and a real page turner. It seems strange to say this over a history book, but I was generally on the edge of my seat waiting to see what was the real cause of cholera. Sandra Hempel is an excellent writer and a great medical historian. This book is not just about cholera, but about a whole host of ways that medicine and public health have improved since the nineteenth century. It is books like these that really make you appreciate living in London in the twenty-first century. The reality makes Charles Dickens look a bit like a fairy tale. I would recommend this book for everyone. I read it so quickly because I really couldn't put it down. Five stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars John Snow for Trafalgar Square!, 21 Sep 2014
By 
Patrick Hannay (Bangkok) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Medical Detective: John Snow, Cholera and the Mystery of the Broad Street Pump (Paperback)
I am not normally a fan of medical literature but this book is utterly gripping. Ms Hempel writes really well and I will look out keenly for her next book.

John Snow, who eschewed fame and tirelessly worked towards the betterment of public health, is a true hero of the Victorian age. His statue should be on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.
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