Dr John Snow (1813-1858) was a famous physician, widely recognised as a
leading pioneer in the development of anaesthesia in Britain, as well as
one of the founding fathers of epidemiology.
Members are invited
to send in biographical or other points about Snow's life and works.
- John Snow was born
in York on 15 March 1813, the eldest son of a farmer. He died in London
on 16 June 1858, aged 45.
- His first piece
of scientific work was on the use of Arsenic in the preservation of
bodies (this work was abandoned due to the toxic effects on the medical
- From his studies
in toxicology, John Snow developed an interest in anaesthesia and cholera
(hence his theory on the transmission of the cholera 'poison' in water
- John Snow was a
vegetarian and a teetotaller who campaigned for temperance societies
(though he drank a little wine in later life). He first encountered
a cholera epidemic in Newcastle in 1831-32 when he was sent there by
the surgeon to whom he was apprenticed at the time.
- It was reported
that John Snow was a poor speaker with a husky voice; "always spoke
to the point but found it difficult to obtain a favourable notice"
- John Snow occupied
three properties during his time in London; 11 Batemans Buildings, Soho
Square (1836-1838); 54 Frith Street, Soho Square (1838-1853); 18 Sackville
- On 16 October 1841
John Snow presented his first paper entitled Asphyxia and the resuscitation
of new-born children.
1846, John Snow heard about the use of anaesthesia in the USA. It was
not well-received in the UK initially, due to the mode of administration
but John Snow spotted how to improve this.
In 1849, John Snow published the first edition of his best-known work
On the mode of communication of cholera. It cost him £200 to
produce but his income was only £3.12s.
dismissed Snow's book. "There is, in our view, an entire failure
of proof that the occurrence of any one case could be clearly and unambiguously
assigned to water". The reviewer later concludes, "Notwithstanding
our opinion that Dr Snow has failed in proving that cholera is communicated
in the mode in which he supposes it to be, he deserves the thanks of
the profession for endeavouring to solve the mystery. It is only by
close analysis of facts and the publication of new views, that we can
hope to arrive at the truth". (London Medical Gazette, 1849)
7 April 1853, John Snow administered obstetric anaesthesia to Queen
Victoria on the birth of Prince Leopold, and again on the birth of Princess
Beatrice (14 April 1857).
Snow beat William Budd to the water theory of transmission of cholera
by only 10 days. However, although Budd's thesis was based on more thorough
surveys of rural outbreaks, he made the mistake of proposing a fungal
Snow's views were still not accepted in Germany at the time of the Gelsenkirche
Typhoid Epidemic, in 1901.