John Snow (15 March 1813 – 16 June 1858) was an English physician and a leader in the adoption of anesthesia and medical hygiene. He is considered to be one of the fathers of epidemiology, because of his work in tracing the source of a cholera outbreak in Soho, England, in 1854.
Early life and education
Snow was born 15 March 1813 in York, England. He was the first of nine childrenborn to William and Frances Snow in their North Street home. His neighborhood was one of the poorest in the city and was always in danger of flooding because of its low proximity to the River Ouse. His father worked in the local coal yards, which were constantly replenished from the Yorkshire coalfields through the barges on the Ouse. Snow was baptized at the Anglicanchurch of All Saints, NorthStreet.
Snow studied in York until the age of 14, when he was apprenticed to William Hardcastle, a surgeon in Newcastle upon Tyne and physician to George Stephenson and family. William Hardcastle was a friend of Snow's uncle, Charles Empson, who was both a witness to Hardcastle's marriage and executor of his will. Charles Empson also went to school with Robert Stephenson and it was probablythrough these connections that Snow acquired his apprenticeship so far from his home town of York. Snow later worked as a colliery surgeon. Between 1833 and 1836 he was an assistant in practice, first inBurnopfield, County Durham, and then in Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire. In October 1836 he enrolled as a student at the Hunterian school of medicine inGreat Windmill Street, London.
In 1837,Snow began working at the Westminster Hospital, admitted as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England on 2 May 1838, he graduated from the University of London in December 1844 and was admitted to the Royal College of Physicians in 1850.
In 1857, he made an early and overlooked contribution to epidemiology in a little-known pamphlet : On the adulteration of bread as a cause of rickets.Anesthesia
John Snow was one of the first physicians to study and calculate dosages for the use of ether and chloroform as surgical anesthetics, allowing patients to undergo surgical procedures without the distress and pain they would otherwise experience. He personally administered chloroform to VVictoria when she gave birth to the last two of her nine children, Leopold in 1853 andBeatrice in 1857, leading to wider public acceptance of obstetricanaesthesia. Snow published an article on ether in 1847 entitled On the Inhalation of the Vapor of Ether. A bigger, longer work was published posthumously in 1858 entitled On Chloroform and Other Anesthetics, and Their Action and Administration.
Snow was a skeptic of the then dominant miasma theory that stated that diseases suchas cholera or the Black Death were caused by pollution or a noxious form of "bad air". The germ theory of disease had not yet been developed, so Snow did not understand the mechanism by which the disease was transmitted. His observation of the evidence led him to discount the theory of foul air. He first publicized his theory in an essay On the Mode of Communication of Cholera in 1849. Despitecontinuing reports, he was not awarded 30,000 French francs for this work by the Institute de France. In 1855 he published a second edition of his article, documenting his more elaborate investigation of the effect of the water supply in the Soho, London epidemic of 1854.
By talking to local residents (with the help of Reverend Henry Whitehead), he identified the source of the outbreak as the publicwater pump on Broad Street (now Broadwick Street). Although Snow's chemical and microscope examination of a water sample from the Broad Street pumpdid not conclusively prove its danger, his studies of the pattern of the disease were convincing enough to persuade the local council to disable the well pump by removing its handle. This action has been commonly credited as ending the outbreak, but...