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Medical Detective

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  340 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
In 1831, an unknown, horrifying, and deadly disease from Asia swept across continental Europe and North America, killing millions and throwing the medical profession into confusion. A killer with little respect for class or wealth, cholera ravaged the squalid streets of Soho and rocked the great centers of Victorian power. In this gripping book, Sandra Hempel tells the sto ...more
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published April 21st 2006 by Granta Books
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Oct 04, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every so often I leave the world of fiction and delve in to other subjects. Historical discoveries, usually those that have a direct impact on us particularly appeal to me and this title stood out.
Now as the cover explains it follows the events that afflicted London and the country during the 19th century due to successive Cholera out breaks and the pioneering work done by one man John Snow (no idea if this was the basic of the fictional character or not)

The book covers the events that surroun
Morgan Scorpion
Aug 31, 2009 Morgan Scorpion rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Should you by any chance travel back to the first half of the 19th Century, you should kill any doctors you meet on sight. Trust me, you'll save tens of thousands of lives by so doing.
Nov 03, 2010 Angela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a horrifying slideshow of medical "treatments" that will make anyone glad to have been born within the last century, Sandra Hempel scours the records of Britain's repeated brushes with asiatic cholera in the mid-1800s, eventually focusing on the story of humble physician and vegetarian hero John Snow. Roundly derided by the "miasmatists" who embraced popular medical theories of the day, Snow discovered and attempted to prove, through careful epidemiological mapping and interviews with victims ...more
May 15, 2012 Alana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A riveting true story that reads as easily as good fiction. Sandra Hempel tells the story of John Snow and his discovering the route by which cholera is spread. Well researched and told via a great plot, this is a truly enjoyable and interesting read. Set mostly in Victorian England, the book also gives historical insight into living conditions, the medical establishment, public health and civil engineering at the time.
Jun 07, 2014 Petra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Alternative title for this book: The Medical Detective: John Snow, Cholera And The Mystery Of The Broad Street Pump.

I really enjoyed this book. It goes beyond it's title; it's not just about Broad Street but also the history of cholera's travels around the world, the beginning of anaesthesiology and epidemiology, the London drinking water system and orphanages.
Most surprising person mentioned: Elizabeth Gaskell.
Sandra Hempel manages to show the works of Dr. John Snow in a clear manner. Snow wa
Apr 29, 2010 Kenzo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely brilliant.

I had heard of the broad street pump episode and the map John Snow used and I was unmoved - a fun and dramatic story which does not illustrate the genius of John Snow and even encourages people into misleading texas sharp shooter type investigations. After reading this book, John Snow is my hero. His best piece of work was the collection of data on water sources among cholera victims which he used to determine whether this exposure was associated with greater risk of illnes
Dec 28, 2010 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump" describes the waves of cholera that spread across the world from 1817 to 1866, what was done to treat it, and what was discovered about it. While many people and places were mentioned, we learned the most about John Snow since he made the greatest discovery about how cholera was spread and the main focus was on the cholera-related events in London, England. The book also described related topics like the medical and sanitary practices of the day, medic ...more
Vicki Cline
May 19, 2013 Vicki Cline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, history
I discovered this book while reading On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks, where it was referenced because of the map John Snow made of cases of cholera in London in 1854. They were concentrated around a particular public water pump. Snow was convinced that cholera was disseminated through dirty water, but most physicians believed it was bad air. He was finally vindicated, after having been ignored for a long time, but his fame came after his untimely death. The bo ...more
Jun 13, 2016 Renee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Utterly excellent! I wouldn't say it's a page turner but it was great to learn about the birth of epidemiology, the complete ignorance we had when it came to disease, and the way the cholera epidemic played out in England. There is so much more to love in this book, with little related side stories regarding Charles Dickens, Florence Nightingale and the namesake of Big Ben. If you enjoy learning about medical history, don't go past this one.
Lucy B
The Medical Detective is a richly detailed read that chronicles the spread, treatment and eventual prevention of this deadly virus. Central to the story is the ground-breaking work of the now famous Dr John Snow, who fought to prove that cholera was a water-borne disease, despite conventional wisdom suggesting its source came primary from ‘bad air’ or miasma.

Despite the slow start, Hempel’s account of the rise of cholera in Europe, and the investigative work of Dr Snow, is gripping. She tells, i
Sep 27, 2014 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
In the early- to mid-1800's, cholera ravaged Europe. It swept into neighborhoods in the blink of an eye, killed hundreds or thousands in days, and then just as quickly disappeared completely...only to pop up again somewhere else.. Family members watched as their loved ones went from perfect health to extreme dehydration and death in mere hours. Whole houses...whole streets were decimated, erasing the lives of everyone who lived within. Yet just as astonishingly some places were left entirely unt ...more
Mar 21, 2015 Jaksen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent non-fiction book on a health topic for those who loved 'The Hot Zone,' anything ebola-related, or anything omg-another-horrible-disease-related. Hempel does an excellent job of researching all the details regarding the three horrible cholera epidemics in 1800's England. I always marvel at books where so many of the 'experts' turn out to be total dunces, disregarding what's right in front of them and adhering to old ideas and theories which time and again turn out to be total crap.

Jan 13, 2014 Lis rated it really liked it
Shelves: health-science
Very interesting book - about the search for the cause of cholera during outbreaks in mid-19th century Britain. At the time they had no knowledge that germs cause disease, and medical treatments weren't much past where they had been in middle ages, so many people died very quickly in each of several successive cholera epidemics.

The picture the author gives of the living conditions of the poor in London at the time are pretty shocking. This was the London that Charles Dickens wrote about - the L
Jun 01, 2016 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story is often told that Dr. John Snow, during a cholera outbreak in London, marked on a map of Soho the locations of vthe disease's victims and linked them to a public water pump on Broad Street. He removed the pump handle and the epidemic stopped. This telling misses the detailed detective work that preceded the events. Dr. Snow invested years of research in concluding, before the outbreak, that cholera was a water-borne disease.
We take clinical medical practice for granted now. It is amaz
Jan 07, 2016 Sohvi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Well written and easy to read, despite of the heavy subject.

This is much broader than what I expected. It started out with the early history of cholera, before concentrating on cholera in Europe and in England and only after that it starts to talk about John Snow. Personally I liked that, because it gave the background needed when handling complex subjects such as pandemics. But the book had maybe been oversold as being "The Story of John Snow". This is first and foremost about cholera in Engla
Candy Wood
Hempel acknowledges in her bibliographic essay at the end that the story of the Broad Street pump and John Snow’s life and work was not enough to make a book, so neither this title nor the original British one, The Medical Detective, really fits the book she has written, and much of the additional material seems extraneous. Her effort to produce a dramatic narrative produces some confusion: for example, at the end of chapter 11, it sounds as though chapter 12, “The Big Idea,” will be about Snow ...more
Aug 04, 2014 Tracey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really liked this. It's not just about Snow and his experiment, but also about the history of cholera, the state of medical science in the 19th century, and the social and political aspects of the time.
Balraj Sethi
Jan 09, 2015 Balraj Sethi rated it really liked it
Jason Snow is like many other great mind is merely known and not much appreciated even today. However, his ideas made platform to content one of the most deadliest epidemic of the nineteenth century. Sandra Hempel's naturalistic narration you will be swayed back to the mid-eighteen hundred.
Aug 24, 2009 Cathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although it starts out a bit slow with background of the spread of cholera in the 1800's, this non-fiction book becomes almost as exciting as a mystery novel as it describes the discovery of the cause for cholera. When people didb't believe the doctor who proposed the answer and suggested a way to stop the spread of such a deadly disease, I wanted to scream in frustration! I found Sandra Hempel's description of how she selected her topic and broadened it to be a book length story fascinating.
Dec 23, 2014 Petra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alternative title: The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump: John Snow and the Mystery of Cholera.
Very interesting, easy to read and enjoyable (despite the topic). See my full review under the other title.
Nov 02, 2011 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Highly recommended. Fascinating account of John Snow's determination to discover the cause of cholera epedemics in London and the opposition that he encountered from the medical establishment of the day. Even respected figures like Florence Nightingale refused to accept his discovery that the disease was spread by bacteria in drinking water.
Jul 29, 2014 Eve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, science
Although I thought this book had a little too much detail (I'm glad the author researched it so extensively, but I kept wanting to get the the next discovery), overall it was very good and super interesting. It definitely made me appreciate tap water in a way I never have.
Apr 08, 2015 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating book about cholera and the history of the first epidemiologist who figured out how the disease was transmitted in foul water. If you are interested in medical history you will like this book. Well written and and researched.
Nov 11, 2015 Natalie rated it liked it
Part history, part biography. I found it quite interesting, but there were too many digressions with side personages and anecdotes, and the author seemed too condescending towards the miasmists.
Apr 06, 2009 Persephone rated it liked it
I picked this up for comparison with The Ghost Map. This takes a larger world view historical approach before closing in on the events of 1854 in Soho. An enjoyable read.
Emily Browne
I loved the writing style, as it flowed well for non-fiction and was not bogged down with a million footnotes. However, it went a little long for me.
Rusty Tobin
Aug 28, 2013 Rusty Tobin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative history of cholera and medical practices in mid-19th century Britain. Accessible for the general public but not particularly well organized.
Feb 09, 2009 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
great book on the study and formulution of epidemiology theory, disease mapping and the nasty cesspits of London mid-nineteenth century.
Crossett  Library
Apr 27, 2011 Crossett Library rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting account of this cholera outbreak and how it spread
Helena Sheibler
Aug 02, 2012 Helena Sheibler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, excellent, excellent book.
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