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"Cholera: What is it? And how to prevent it."

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(22 August 1866)

PDF courtesy of Google Books. Pages 29-30 were partially obscured when a corner of one page overlaps another. But it can be sorted by moving back and forth amongst several pages.

Edwin Lankester, M.D., was a vestryman for the Parish of St. James, Westminster and the major driving force in establishing a local committee to inquire into the causes of the 1854 cholera outbreak in the parish. He became a member of that committee, along with John Snow and Henry Whitehead. After an investigation lasting almost six months, the inquiry committee was persuaded that the outbreak was due to some form of contamination of the Broad Street pump, but it did not endorse Snow's theory. Where Lankester stood on this matter at the time is unclear.

But the 1866 cholera outbreak in London made him a convert to Snow's theory. Lankester was asked by the publisher, George Routledge & Sons, to write a book accessible to the general reading public about the disease. The table of contents in the attached PDF shows that he decided to provide a brief historical overview, including discussion of the contagionist/non-contagionist controversy during the three preceding English cholera epidemics.

I have abstracted portions from the 1854 outbreak of relevance to Snow:

"But of all the means by which this poison may be conveyed, that by water seems the most constant and the most dangerous. This mode [30/31] of conveyance was so novel, that when first suggested it was almost universally opposed. Medical men had really no experience of any contagious diseases that could be conveyed in this way, and were incredulous as to the fact." [He then summarizes the context for the "natural experiment" in South London involving the Lambeth and Southwark & Vauxhall water companies, without mentioning Snow.]

"That the same influence may be conveyed from a water-closet to a well, is seen in the case of the people attacked at Theyden-Bois, near Epping [during the current epidemic]; but the most gigantic case of this kind which has ever appeared in the history of epidemic cholera, is that which occurred in the [32/33] months of August and September, 1854, in the parish of St. James, Westminster. . . . On the 1st of September [sic; should be the 7th] the Board of Guardians met to consult as to what ought to be done. Of that meeting the late Dr. Snow demanded an audience. He was admitted, and gave it as his opinion that the pump in Broad-street, and the pump alone, was the cause of all the pestilence. He was not believed--not a member of his own profession, not an individual [34/35] in the parish believed that Dr. Snow was right. But the pump was closed, nevertheless, and the plague was stayed. . . ."

[Despite serving on the Cholera Inquiry Committee with Snow, Lankester fell back on Benjamin Ward Richardson's account from the 1858 biographical sketch. Lankester uses a different date for Snow's meeting with parish authorities, but otherwise the wording and the tone betray his source; PVJ]


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