We like history and we like science, but we’re often too bored and/or stupid to enjoy reading about them.
So thank goodness for Steven Johnson, the author of Everything Bad Is Good for You and Emergence. His new book, The Ghost Map (out 10/19), proves once again his unequalled ability to fascinate us, and make us feel smart, as he explains a Big Idea.
The book is about the cholera epidemic that ravaged London in 1854. Back then, everyone knew that cholera was caused by bad air, “miasmas,” and that we were powerless to control it.
Except everyone was wrong. The book’s odd-couple heroes, a physician and a vicar, do the hard work of collecting data — pinpointing exactly who is dying where — to solve the mystery. (Spoiler: human waste leaching into drinking water.)
The Ghost Map makes several challenging subjects — microbial biology, epidemiology, evolution, urban planning, scientific paradigm shifts — not just perfectly clear but provocative and riveting.
And right now, when certain powers-that-be are denying science about pollution and climate change for political reasons, this heroic tale of modern, reality-based thinking is important and inspiring.
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