pinflix yespornplease
Snow, John

A Community of Rambunctious Scholars Celebrating People
Who Have Made Lifesaving Discoveries And Encouraging
Students and Politicians to Read 1000 Science Stories!

Why are we not counting
this scientist's lives saved?

This Lifesaver worked his wonders before
accurate records were kept, making it impossible to calculate the number of lives he has saved. His contribution was so monumental that we
include him as a
Science Heroes Legend.


We Need Your Help!

Do You Know This Scientist?

If you do, we welcome your input.  Please share your funny stories, brief anecdotes, quotes, and photos of the scientist - as well as your own inspirational opinions.  Personal accounts help bring a scientist alive and create an enduring historical picture.  You can be a part of this exciting history by providing your personal account! 

Please click here to learn more about how to contribute:
Participate as a Friend Scholar

Can You Write or Research?

Help us learn more about this great scientist.  You can be a credited Support Scholar by contributing your knowledge about this scientist and important discovery.  Entries can be as short as a single section and as easy as compiling quotes.  Click here to learn more about becoming a Support Scholar:
Participate as a Support Scholar

Would you like to adopt a scientist?

Endeavor to research all the sections of a scientist. Click here to learn how to be an Expert Scholar.
Participate as an Expert Scholar

Have Historically Significant Photographs?
Participate with Photos

Click here for all the ways you can participate:
Participate to


Has this scientist’s science impacted your life?
Click here to tell your story or to read others’ life changing anecdotes:
Post Your Own Testimonial

John Snow
(March 15, 1813 - June 16, 1858)
Born in England
Year of Discovery: 1854

snow_john_pd_300hThe Father of Epidemiology and One of the First Anesthetists Too!

John Snow, born in England in 1813, is most widely known as the "Father of Epidemiology," but his natural curiosity and penchant for exacting research also allowed him to make significant contributions to the advance of anesthesiology. Snow was the first physician to precisely calculate the proper doses of ether, the most commonly used anesthetic of his time. His real fame, however, stems from his groundbreaking work in fighting cholera. There was no effective means of fighting cholera in the 1800s, and during the London outbreak of 1854, the deaths came fast and furious. Snow's method of mapping the location of each occurrence allowed him to identify the likely source of the cholera outbreak: a water pump on Broad Street. His mapping of that early cholera epidemic laid the foundation for the modern principles of epidemiology.

Epidemiology is the study of how, when, and where disease occurs within populations. There are two basic types of epidemiological studies: prospective and retrospective. Prospective epidemiological studies are forecasters. These studies look at a particular disease and assess the likelihood of its spread within a given population, given a particular set of circumstances. Prospective studies provide much of the guidance to governmental officials for pandemic preparedness. Retrospective studies, on the other hand, look backward - or "sideways." Backward-looking studies evaluate the spread of a disease that has already come and gone, in hopes of better understanding its characteristics in future outbreaks. Sideways-looking studies assess the outbreak of a disease from within as they occur in real time - it's as if the scientist is standing in the eye of a hurricane, with the disease raging about him, trying to track its deadly path. It's this particular type of "sideways" epidemiology that Snow first developed.

Scientists face challenges in all ages. But for Snow, the bar was set particularly high. When the cholera epidemic hit London in 1854, the leading theory of disease was the "miasma" theory - the belief that disease was carried by noxious gases floating in the air. The idea that disease was spread by drinking water contaminated with fecal matter was too appalling to be believed. But as Snow went about mapping each occurrence of cholera, a striking pattern emerged. He discovered that the majority of the cholera deaths - as many as 500 in one ten-day period - occurred within a short distance of the Broad Street pump. Though skeptical, the city officials paid heed to Snow's meticulously rendered map, and ordered the removal of the Broad Street pump handle. This simple act represented the first triumphant blow of epidemiological methods against the scourge of worldwide diseases.

Snow was no stranger to disease, having battled both tuberculosis and renal disease. Perhaps it was this sensitivity that kept his mind always at the ready to explore new methods to alleviate suffering. So when he came across a druggist carrying an odd "ether apparatus" down the street, he immediately began to quiz him as to its use. When he understood that the druggist intended on "getting quite into an ether practice" Snow's mind began to spin. He reasoned that if the use of ether, recently introduced in the United States to alleviate surgical pain, was to be a new wave in England, he should be the one to carry it out. After all, Snow figured, he had the medical expertise to make this new ether anesthesia both safe and effective. So, as was his custom, he set about conducting a series of experiments. He first tested the effects of ether on small animals, recording the doses and the effects. Once reasonably satisfied, he enlisted his first human test subject - himself. Once he had fine-tuned the inhaler used to administer the ether, he began to anesthetize patients at the dental facility at St. George's Hospital. He then began to work with Robert Liston, a highly respected surgeon, at University College. The surgeon was impressed with the quality and outcome of Snow's procedure, and Snow became recognized as the leading anesthetist in London.

Snow was a strict vegetarian and an ardent teetotaler. At the young age of 23, he delivered an impassioned speech to persuade his fellow Londoners to adopt his view. In the opening section, he opined, "If I could bring you, my friends, to see these liquors in the same light as I do, you would then abstain from them without considering it an act of self-denial, or a sacrifice you were making for the benefit of society, but an act of justice to yourselves, the neglect of which would be irrational." Snow, in a belief that could be straight out of today's medical headlines, believed the most suitable drink for optimum health was simple, pure water.


Introduction by Tim Anderson


Table of Contents

Links to More Information About the Scientist
Key Insight
Key Experiment or Research
Quotes by the Scientist
Quotes About the Scientist
Similar Scientists
Fun Trivia About The Science
The Science Behind the Discovery
Personal Information
Key Contributing Scientists
Science Discovery Timeline
Recommended Books About the Science
Books by the Scientist
Books About the Scientist
Major Academic Papers
Curriculum Vitae
Links to Science and Related Information on the Subject


Links to More About the Scientist & the Science

UCLA Department of Epidemiology website dedicated to Snow:

Article on Snow's role in stemming the 1854 London Cholera Epidemic:

Article discussing Snow's role in the early development of anesthesia (pdf):

Wikipedia entry:

Sliders & Images here

Image Flow Here

Key Insight

Key Experiments or Research

Quotes by the Scientist

Quotes About the Scientist



Similar Scientists

Explore these other scientists who have something significant in common with this science hero.
Science Heroes of the 19th Century

Click on the slide!

Robert Koch

Koch was an ingenious innovator

Isolated the bacterium that causes tuberculosis

Click on the slide!

Paul Ehrlich

Developed the commercial serum therapy against diphtheria

Ehrlich established exacting standards for measuring the content of antitoxins. This critical process allowed for the mass production of standardized serums against diphtheria and tetanus.

Click on the slide!

Edward Jenner

Did earliest work on the smallpox vaccine

Jenner's early efforts proved that cowpox virus (vaccinia) could provide immunity to the smallpox virus. This discovery gave birth to the concept of vaccination.

Click on the slide!

Joseph Lister

Lister ushered in the era of sterile surgical practices

Lister, the "Father of Modern Surgery," developed the antiseptic surgical technique, ushering in the era of sterile surgical practices.

Click on the slide!

Louis Pasteur

Pasteur was responsible for several major scientific discoveries

Pasteur was a multi-faceted scientific genius who proved germ theory, and was the founder of vaccination, microbiology, and pasteurization.

Click on the slide!

John Snow

developed the first method of mapping the spread of epidemics

Snow, widely known as the "Father of Epidemiology," developed the first method of mapping the spread of epidemics. He also was the first to calculate precise doses of anesthesia.

Frontpage Slideshow (version 2.0.0) - Copyright © 2006-2008 by JoomlaWorks

Click the thumbnail image to jump to the scientist.  Click the large image, scientist's name or "read more" to go to the scientist's page.


Fun Trivia About the Science

The Science Behind the Discovery

Personal Information

Key Contributing Scientists to the Discovery

Scientific Discovery Timeline

Recommended Books About the Science

Books by the Scientist

Books About the Scientist

Vinten-Johansen, Peter, Brody, Howard, Paneth, Nigel, Rachman, Stephen and Rip. Michael. Cholera, Chloroform and the Science of Medicine: A Life of John Snow. Oxford University Press, 2003.


Major Academic Papers Written by the Scientist

Curriculum Vitae

Links to Information on the Science