The Crow's Dream

Philosophy, geekery, and the meaning if life, and what I read this week…

The Ghost Map

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The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book complements Johnson’s earlier works by providing them with an illustration. If his previous explorations exposed wide patterns, this one gives the screen to project them. Though it is tempting to dismiss the material as outdated, the author manages to make a case for the relevant and heroic exploits of Snow and Whitehead, whom, according to the author, were the first to show a means through which urban living could not only be beneficial, but actually desirable. I do not think of these men as the sole cause for the growth of cities, and at some points it feels like Johnson falls for the “great man theory of history.” Both Snow and Whitehead were vital to cities as we know them, but I think they are a case study, an important one to be sure, but not the case itself.

Though Johnson’s voice is modern, his tale has the feel of a mystery writen by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it even has a Sherlock in Snow and a Watson in Whitehead, which I thought was cool.

The idea that cities are greener spaces than the alternative–suburban sprawl and the country–reinforced my love of the urban and crowded. Additionally, the book shows the process of science and its liberating influence, thus providing a stern warning against superstition. An enjoyable read, though it occasionally lags. A must read if you enjoy the Victorian, or want to know more about the way science and history are made.

View all my reviews.


Written by Hector

April 20, 2009 at 8:56 pm

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