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John Snow (The Father of Epidemiology) Descriptive Essay

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Updated: Nov 20th, 2019


John Snow was a medical practitioner of English descent. He was instrumental in the acceptance of anaesthesia in the medical field. Snow is also hailed for his extensive study and contribution in the field of medical hygiene. However, he is best known for his work in relation to epidemiology. Snow carried out extensive research on the transmission and control of cholera. Due to his efforts, he is rightfully referred to as the father of epidemiology.


Whenever there is a sudden occurrence of a disease in a locality, it is expected that medical experts will visit the area to probe on its causes and on possible remedies (Rothman, 2012, p.34). But in the recent past, diseases were seen as a form of punishment from God or as resulting from invincible forces that were unknown to mankind.

John Snow was very instrumental in changing all that. In 1854, the Soho area of London was struck by an eruption of cholera. Snow hypothesised that the disease emanated from water that came into contact with raw sewage (Rothman, 2012, p.44). Back in the day, piped water was not available in homes. People got water from central points that were strategically positioned in the neighbourhood.

In the day, people maintained that cholera resulted from invisible gases known as miasma. John Snow did not subject to this school of thought. Snow drew a map indicating the location of all water pumps and the dwelling points of all the locals who were affected by the pandemic (Rothman, 2012, p.67).

In the end, Snow successfully showed that all the people who were affected consumed water from a specific pump in the neighbourhood. Snow forwarded his findings to the local authorities. They gave credence to snow’s theory. Consequently, the authorities disabled the central pump and the pandemic ceased.

Scientists constantly disagree on various issues. They evaluate nature by conducting scientific experiments. Scientists change their perception of nature whenever they formulate a new set of ideas on a particular area of concern (Merrill, 2010, p.88). After Snow’s research, scientists changed their understanding of cholera.

Snow’s research undertakings in relation to cholera are still relevant in the contemporary field of medicine. From his works, it is evident that the first step in fighting a disease of cholera’s nature is to establish how the disease is spread from one person to another. This is followed by the execution of preventive measures. Snow opined that the causative agent of cholera was microscopic, cell-like and capable of multiplying (Merrill, 2010, p.97).

Unlike his colleagues in the medical field, Snow directed his energy into determining how the disease was communicated from one individual to another. Snow focused his attention on the social factors that favoured the communication of cholera. The factors were: unavailability of soap and clean water, lack of light to detect contamination, lack of knowledge on hygienic practices and human activities in mines that forced men to dispose their faecal wastes inappropriately (Merrill, 2010, p.112).


Snow is remembered for having studied fields that were dear to human race. He majored on the formulation of a safe and reliable surgical anaesthesia and put immeasurable effort into forestalling cholera. From his studies, it is clear that a disease cannot be treated without a clear understanding of how it is transmitted.

Snow’s work has largely influenced the modern field of epidemiology. Researchers draw inspiration from his determination and regard for science. Snow’s research continues to inspire modern epidemiologists in their work. In the recent past, many communicable diseases have been effectively cured through research.


Merrill, R. (2010). Introduction to Epidemiology. London: Jones & Bartlett.

Rothman, K. (2012). Epidemiology: An Introduction. London: Oxford University Press.

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