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Papers of the Week

2021 May 07

J Med Biogr

Memorials to John Snow – Pioneer in anaesthesia and epidemiology.


Snowise NG
J Med Biogr. 2021 May 07:9677720211013807.
PMID: 33960862.


John Snow was an English physician and a founding father of epidemiology, whose name is inextricably linked with tracing the source of the 1854 cholera outbreak in Soho, which killed over 600 people. Despite his recommendation to remove the water pump handle and thus reduce the spread of cholera, his theory of faecal-oral transmission was not widely believed until after his death. Furthermore, he also pioneered substantial achievements in the development of anaesthesia. He studied both chloroform and ether, improving the accuracy of their delivery. In his obstetric practice, he achieved the feat of obtaining satisfactory analgesia with a safer technique and is remembered for administering chloroform to Queen Victoria, during the delivery of her last two children. There are several interesting and unusual memorials to Snow, ranging from replica water pumps, blue plaques and a public house named after him. The most recent new memorial was erected in 2017, in his home town of York, which commemorates his origins and his subsequent contribution to curbing the cholera outbreak. All the memorials commemorate his achievements, which remain relevant today. Public health and epidemiology expertise is required in the current world of the COVID-19 pandemic, where his legacy remains as important as ever.