Epidemics on the Ground
In the seventeenth century, a map of the plague suggested a radical idea—that the disease was carried and spread by humans. In the nineteenth century, maps of cholera cases were used to prove its waterborne nature. More recently, maps charting the swine flu pandemic caused worldwide panic and sent shockwaves through the medical community. In Disease Maps, Tom Koch contends that to understand epidemics and their history we need to think about maps of varying scale, from the individual body to shared symptoms evidenced across cities, nations, and the world.
Disease Maps begins with a brief review of epidemic mapping today and a detailed example of its power. Koch then traces the early history of medical cartography, including pandemics such as European plague and yellow fever, and the advancements in anatomy, printing, and world atlases that paved the way for their mapping. Moving on to the scourge of the nineteenth century—cholera—Koch considers the many choleras argued into existence by the maps of the day, including a new perspective on John Snow’s science and legacy. Finally, Koch addresses contemporary outbreaks such as AIDS, cancer, and H1N1, and reaches into the future, toward the coming epidemics. Ultimately, Disease Maps redefines conventional medical history with new surgical precision, revealing that only in maps do patterns emerge that allow disease theories to be proposed, hypotheses tested, and treatments advanced.
“In Disease Maps, University of British Columbia medical geographer Tom Koch explores the rich history of using maps to visualize epidemics, from early attempts to chart the menace of plague as it raced across medieval Europe and John Snow’s iconic cholera maps of the 19th century to modern-day depictions of cancer clusters and the spread of AIDS. Festooned with great old illustrations, maps, diagrams, and charts from outbreaks past, Disease Maps urges the reader to witness the genius and folly of the past in order to better map the epidemics of the future.”
"Remarkable. . . . If most people are ever inclined to think about disease mapping, it’s usually in relation to John Snow’s map of the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak in London. Snow, we’re told in the usual triumphalist account, transcended medieval theories of disease transmission . . . ; he plotted cases on a street map, found they centered on a water well, removed that well’s handle, and saved lives. Koch demolishes this history of medical mapping with vicious relish. The result is a marvelous reverse-detective story."—Boston Globe
“Disease Maps is an extraordinary visual and narrative treat. I have come to look forward to Tom Koch’s books for the wonderful and unique way that he can synthesize data and present it visually and in the process tell us magnificent stories.”
“This is a masterful book in conception and structure. It is also extremely well written. What we find on reading is an exquisite telling of the history of the medical science of disease. The collection of medical maps, diagrams, and other illustrations is impressive in scope—there are many disease maps shown that have not been publicly available before or collected in one place.”
"This unconventional history charts the rise of epidemiology by examining how maps have been used to follow the spread of disease."—Science News