|Start of the walk at the John Snow pub in Broad Street|
|Toasting John Snow during a visit to the house in Frith Street where he may have lived|
It is 150 years since the epidemic of cholera in Soho, which took 500 lives but provided Dr John Snow with the final proof of his theory that the disease was waterborne. Water and sanitation improvements instituted after this outbreak ensured that this was the last major outbreak of cholera in the UK. The RIPH and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine marked the anniversary with a guided walk from Broad Street to LSHTM and a splendid lecture from Dr Alain Moren, head of EPIET, the European training programme for epidemiologists.
The 'Snow walk' started at the John Snow pub in Broad Street, where a pink granite paving stone marks the site of the implicated pump. Soho in the time of Dr John Snow was a mixed area: affluent merchants, doctors and lawyers lived in and around Golden Square, while many of the dilapidated Georgian houses housed poor families, often with only one room each for accommodation. Piped water supply, where available, operated for only 2 hours a day and not on Sundays: so the many shallow wells in the area provided the main source of drinking water.
The Broad Street pump was favoured for the sweet taste of its water, so much so that several coffee houses served it with sherbet. Sanitation was particularly basic, with cess pits before and behind the terraces into which the slops and excrement were thrown. Despite the many changes in Soho in the last century and a half, it is still possible to find rows of houses and passages that retain the atmosphere of the close community that lived there; and reminders of the famous characters who knew Soho, such as Charles Lamb, Karl Marx (who lived in Soho during the epidemic) and William and John Hunter, whose medical school taught Dr John Snow and Dr Edward Jenner, amongst other notable physicians.
A highlight of the walk was the opportunity to visit the house in Frith Street where Snow may have lived: due to renumbering of the houses it is possible that the plaque to Snow at number 54 may be misplaced - the John Snow Society will be investigating this issue, but meanwhile the owners of a house that was once numbered 54 (now 61) offered excellent hospitality to the walkers, including both water and wine for a toast to the great John Snow (well, he did take an occasional glass of wine 'for health' in his later years). From here the walk took us through Soho Square and onto Bloomsbury, also an important area for medical history. The white Art Deco façade of the LSHTM, with carved names of great public health pioneers, marked the end of the walk in good time to take a seat for the next even, the 12th Pumphandle Lecture.
On September 7th 2004 the Icelandic branch of the John Snow Society celebrated the removal of the handle from the pump in Broad Street. We had a meeting where 35 people attended, mostly from waterworks and health authorities. Our pumphandle lecture was on waterborn diseases given by the State Epidemiologist Dr. Haraldur Briem. Mrs. María J. Gunnarsdóttir gave also a talk on John Snow and his work and the chairman at the meeting was Mr. Freysteinn Sigurðsson. Over lunch there was a general discussion on the importance of access to clean water.
|María Gunnarsdóttir & Freysteinn Sigurðsson|
The San Francisco Chapter
On returning from a summer attachment to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in 2003, Dr Tom Novotny, Professor in Residence in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine (UCSF), founded a chapter of the John Snow Society.
The chapter, which has 12 members, had its first meeting at a local pub on December 9, 2003. Most chapter members are part of the UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, including Professors Virginia Ernster, George Rutherford, and Steve Hulley. The chapter plans to have at least one annual meeting, in conjunction with other Departmental events.
The next meeting will coincide with an endowed lectureship (the Pablo Lucia Lectureship in Preventive Medicine), which has been awarded to Professor Martin McKee of LSHTM. He will visit San Francisco for the lecture and John Snow Society event on July 21, 2004 and he will lecture on the mortality crisis in the Russian Federation.
Members interested in joining this local chapter should email Tom Novotny at: Tnovotny@psg.ucsf.edu
The Scandinavian Chapter
The Scandinavian chapter of the John Snow Society now has approximately 110 members, almost all of whom are working within the drinking water sector. The group focuses on drinking water safety and risk communication, and plans to have future events on this topic.
As part of the Nordic Drinking Water Conference, the Scandinavian chapter will hold its annual meeting. Since the first conference in Norway in 1998, when the Scandinavian branch was established, it has become a tradition to have a Pumphandle Award Ceremony as part of the conference.
The 4th Nordic Drinking Water Conference will take place in Espoo, Finland between October 18th and 20th 2004. For more information on the drinking water conference, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Members interested in joining this local chapter should email Christen Raestad at: email@example.com
|Dr James Curren (center) received the John Snow award|
In November 2003, representatives of John Snow Society were invited by the Epidemiology Section of the American Public Health Association to be involved in their awards ceremony.
The Section's John Snow award was given to Dr James Curran, a leading figure in the history of the AIDS epidemic in North America, in recognition of excellence in epidemiological practice and research. The John Snow Society presented a copy of Dr Spence Galbraith's book 'John Snow (1813-1858) - his early years' to the Epidemiology Section, and membership of the Society to Dr Curran.
Mr Douglas Gandy of Gandy's Roses Ltd. has raised a rose with beautiful large exhibition-type flowers and named it after John Snow. The flowers are white with a delicate shade of cream and the rose has a lovely sweet scent.
The John Snow Rose is available to purchase for £5.50 (please note delivery will not be until the autumn).