Historical story

On this day the real Jon Snow was born:How he beat cholera

Most people "recognize" the name Jon Snow as the character in the series of fantasy novels "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George R.R. Martin, and of course the series Game of Thrones.

Kit Harington's Jon Snow set out to save his own fictional world, which was at the core of the thinking of the real John Snow, who came to life today, March 15, 1813. Both of you see, the they put up with a "great enemy" who threatened the world with annihilation.

Briton Snow was a physician and founder of anesthesia. He is considered one of the fathers of modern epidemiology, with his work focusing on dealing with the third cholera epidemic in Soho, London, in 1854, when at least 400 cases were reported in four days, with dozens of deaths. With his action he showed the importance of quickly identifying and isolating the first cases, with detailed recording and data analysis.

His partner was Thomas Michael Greenhow while he studied from the age of 14, alongside the professor of surgery, William Hardcastle. He was a member of the Westminster Medical Society, and became known in his lifetime through his lectures.

His findings inspired fundamental changes in London's water and sewage systems, which led to similar changes in other cities, and a significant improvement in public health in general around the world.

Until Snow's time, scientists believed that cholera was airborne. It was known at the time, Miasma Theory.

In London, however, due to unregulated drainage, and due to insufficient water supply, urban sewage mixed with drinking water. After all, cholera caused stomachaches, vomiting and diarrhea to such an extent that the victims died of dehydration.

By conducting field interviews in the homes of patients, Snow found that cholera was known to flare up in certain neighborhoods. The spatial variation led him to the conclusion that the neighborhoods with severe cholera cases had access to water in areas with unsuitable water sources. It is characteristic that on the map he made, cases were recorded in houses on one side of the street, while on the opposite side, the families were "clean". Key was his study of the public hand pump in Broad Street (today's Broadwick). He even noticed that at a short distance from this pump, 61 deaths had occurred.

The famous "Cholera Map"

Thus, he was able to perceive that the source of contamination was the water and not the air. With his study, unsuitable public pumps were isolated and gradually the cases decreased. It started with the "quarantine" of the Broad Street pump.

After investigations, the authorities found that this pump had been built just two meters from an old sewer. Later, Jon Snow proved that the private water company "Southwark and Vauxhall Waterworks Company" was supplying London with water from areas of the Thames that ended up in urban sewage, thereby spreading cholera throughout the city. It should be noted that at that time Londoners used to empty their household waste into the Thames.

The doctor died at age 45 of a stroke, nine years after publishing his findings in his text, "On the Mode of Communication of Cholera." However, the geographical illustration he made is considered pioneering both for his time and for medicine in general and is recorded in detail in the second edition of his study, from 1855.

Jon Snow's new theory was not immediately accepted by the scientific community of the time. The "mapping" of cholera proceeded years after Snow, in 1883 by Robert Koch, who confirmed that the disease is not contagious from person to person but is spread through contaminated water. The microbe Vibrio cholerae discovered by Filippo Pacini in 1854 was shown to cause cholera and in 1892 Waldemar Hafkine made the first vaccine against the disease.

Snow's innovation is also considered the discovery of anesthetic administration in surgical operations. His anesthesia was based on an inhaler that administered ether initially, and in a later version, chloroform. He also administered chloroform to Queen Victoria when she gave birth to her last two children, Leopold and Beatrice, on April 7, 1853.

Until then, the use of chloroform was considered "unethical" by the Church.

PS A very interesting comparison of Jon to John Snow can be found here

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