The Ghost Map- a book by Steven Johnson

events of the most intense Cholera outbreak in Victorian London

The Ghost Map is a book authored by Steven Johnson and released on 19th October 2006 and illustrates the events of the most intense Cholera outbreak in Victorian London. This article discusses the author’s feelings on the theme of the scientific process and states its position regarding these feelings. The article also gives an insight into whether the author shows bias towards the topic of the scientific process. The article also evaluates if the author explains the topic of the scientific process using facts or allows his personal judgments to get in the way. The article also assesses the use of sarcasm, irony and figurative language in the flow of ideas. Finally, the article makes a personal connection in relation to the theme of death and provides examples as part of the explanation.
In summary, The Ghost Map is a description of the most extreme outbreak of the waterborne disease Cholera in the history of London city at the time of the Victorian period. The book stems from the concept gemeinschaft where people in a community of common ideologies, language and history are all in synergy to combat the adverse effects and prevalence of an epidemic that is posing a significant threat to the existence of persons in society. The book glorifies tow primary protagonists who work direly hard to ease the situation in London and initiate efforts to salvage the situation. One of these protagonists is Dr. John Snow who took the initiative to delineate the outbreak hotspot areas on a map providing a geographical representation of cholera cases. The other protagonist was Reverend Henry Whitehead who had an extensive understanding of the ways of the local community and which assisted in the determination of the cause of the initially reported cases. Dr. Snow was a highly extended anesthetist and had conducted extensive research on epidemiology in London. Furthermore, in the 1850s, he had found the primary source of the cholera contamination to be the Broad Street pump. It is from here that laboratory analysis pointed to the presence of diseases causing microorganisms. The casualties from this outbreak were numerous with an estimate of 50,000-60,000 persons living in London losing their lives in the period between 1848 and 1849. Furthermore, from the period between 1853 and 1854, an additional 30,000 died of Cholera. The cholera outbreak from 1848-49 killed approximately 54,000-62,000 in London, and the outbreak from 1853-54 killed an estimated 31,000 in London.

the feeling of happiness, relief, and encouragement

Johnson has a feeling of happiness, relief, and encouragement from the topic of the scientific process; the commitment of the protagonists towards the establishment of efforts aimed at suppressing the impacts of cholera in the society. Johnson writes, “There is, first, his [Dr. Snow’s] composure and probing intelligence in a time of great chaos, but also his willingness to challenge orthodoxy, or at least submit it to empirical scrutiny” (Johnson 53). Johnson happily exemplifies some of the initiatives in science led by Snow showcasing how he went out of the breadth of his profession as an anesthesiologist to the field of epidemiology that is the study of the spread of diseases to reach to the bottom of the outbreak. Johnson writes showing a sign of relief when Snow finally concludes on a working hypothesis that cholera is waterborne. It is from this point that Johnson continues to narrate the development of a healthier society and the establishment of the cause of the outbreak. This article agrees with the feelings of Johnson since the outbreak had been troublesome to the people of London and therefore his encouragement, relief, and happiness from the scientific process taken are justifiable through his insights on the length that these initiatives went to find the cause and suppression of the disease.

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bias towards the topic scientific process

Johnson shows bias towards the topic scientific process through his extensive narration covering how Snow conducted research in pursuit of the cause of the outbreak. Also, he alludes to the successful suppression of the virulence of the disease to the efforts done by Dr. Snow. Also, by choosing a determined medical researcher and narrating of his will to shift from anesthetics to epidemiology then he shows his insistence on the necessity for a scientific process in resolving the cholera outbreak.
This article feels that Johnson bases his argument on facts rather than allowing his personal judgments to get in the way of his narration. The most important events that reveal conclusions based on scientific facts are; one, the effort to examine the samples of drinking water using microscopy. From the findings, Snow concludes “In a low-transmission environment, lethal strains die out, and mild ones come to dominate the population. In high-transmission environments, the lethal strains quickly outnumber the mild ones.” (Johnson 34). Instead of relying on personal judgments or beliefs about what could be the source of the contamination, Johnson narrates of how Snow went a mile ahead to perform scientific confirmatory texts that could detect the presence of microorganisms and the conclusions thereof. Furthermore, Johnson gives a narration of the way Snow analyses the weekly statistics on instances of cholera in Victorian London. It through this study that Snow starts to delineate geographical patterns from which eventually he draws a map; “ghost map” (Johnson 57). Therefore, the scientific tests of microscopy and the analyses of the statistics point to the use of facts rather than an assessment based on personal judgment or beliefs.
The Ghost Map reveals the use of figurative language, sarcasm, and irony. Johnson states that “London is a city of scavengers” (Johnson 1). Here Johnson is using figurative language to refer to the lifestyle of the people of Victorian London who are living in poor condition and who cannot access healthy water. It is sarcastic for Johnsons to state “Imagine living with that sword of Damocles hovering above your head – every stomach pain or watery stool a potential harbinger of imminent doom” (Johnson 33). By stating this quote, then Johnson is almost ignoring the fact that the residents had not yet found the cause of the outbreak and is assuming that the residents were simply allowing the outbreak to overburden them. Johnson finds it ironical how people who considered themselves intelligent could not figure out the right things to do or even challenge their very thought processes. Johnson asks “How could so many intelligent people be so grievously wrong for such an extended period of time? How could they ignore so much overwhelming evidence that contradicted their most basic theories?” (Johnson 15). It is the inability of intelligent people to redeem themselves of wrongness, to impartially analyze facts and to challenge their theories that irony emerges. Therefore the book has extensive use of sarcasm, irony and figurative language.
The personal connection that emerges from the topic of the scientific process is the value of facts that emerge from a credible process. It is commonly stated that facts and figures do not lie. I have been the victim of allowing my personal beliefs get in the way of making my decisions rather than sticking to the scientific process. As an example, I once purchased the exact medicine prescribed to me at a time when I was undergoing the same signs and symptoms during a previous period. After these drugs failed to work I had to undergo a medical test which revealed a different diagnosis. The connection here is that a scientific process as highlighted in the book carries more weight in the presentation of facts rather than allowing personal judgments and beliefs to get in the way.
In conclusion, Johnson has a feeling of happiness, relief, and encouragement from the topic of the scientific process; the commitment of the protagonists towards the establishment of efforts aimed at suppressing the impacts of cholera in the society. Johnson shows bias towards the topic scientific process through his extensive narration covering how Snow conducted research in pursuit of the cause of the outbreak. This article feels that Johnson bases his argument on facts rather than allowing his personal judgments to get in the way of his narration through the scientific tests of microscopy and the analyses of the statistics of weekly cases of cholera. Also, The Ghost Map reveals the use of figurative language, sarcasm, and irony. Finally, the personal connection that emerges from the topic of the scientific process is the value of facts that emerge from a credible process.
Work cited
Johnson, Steven. The ghost map: The story of London’s most terrifying epidemic–and how it changed science, cities, and the modern world. Penguin, 2006.

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