I have now finished reading Steven B. Johnson’s riveting book, The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World. This has been a labor of love for me since I have known the story (or at least some of it), about the 1854 cholera epidemic in London, for quite a while. I have wanted to read Mr. Johnson’s book for many years and decided regardless of how busy I am with work, now was the time.
Steven Johnson is the best-selling author of seven books on the intersection of science, technology and personal experience. His writings have influenced everything from the way political campaigns use the Internet, to cutting-edge ideas in urban planning, to the battle against 21st-century terrorism. In 2010, he was chosen by Prospect magazine as one of the Top Ten Brains of the Digital Future.
His latest book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, was a finalist for the 800CEORead award for best business book of 2010, and was ranked as one of the year’s best books by The Economist. His book The Ghost Map was one of the ten best nonfiction books of 2006 according to Entertainment Weekly. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Mr. Johnson has also co-created three influential web sites: the pioneering online magazine FEED, the Webby-Award-winning community site, Plastic.com, and most recently the hyperlocal media site outside.in, which was acquired by AOL in 2011. He serves on the advisory boards of a number of Internet-related companies, including Meetup.com, Betaworks, and Nerve.
Mr. Johnson is a contributing editor to Wired magazine and is the 2009 Hearst New Media Professional-in-Residence at The Journalism School, Columbia University. He won the Newhouse School fourth annual Mirror Awards for his TIME magazine cover article titled “How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live.” Steven has also written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, and many other periodicals. He has appeared on many high-profile television programs, including The Charlie Rose Show, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He lectures widely on technological, scientific, and cultural issues. He blogs at stevenberlinjohnson.com and is @stevenbjohnson on Twitter. He lives in Marin County, California with his wife and three sons.
I plan on writing short synopses of chapters of the book in this blog over the next week. My goal is to pull you in, get you excited about what Mr. Johnson is writing, and have you read the book for itself. I won’t give away any secrets specifically noted in the book, but will focus on the chronology that led up to the creation of the now famous map. Mr. Johnson introduces us to an interesting, sometimes frustrating cast of characters throughout the book. He tells us about the crazy theories that seemed plausible at the time, and the uphill battle Dr. John Snow fought to have anyone take him seriously.
I hope you will come along with me for this fascinating and educational journey this next week. But I do have to warn you: Don’t drink the water.