Tag Archives: history

John Snow and the cholera outbreak of 1854: Revealing an unintuitive truth using data

Truth reveals itself to us in many different ways. Sometimes, it takes the form of an amazing revelation, an eye-catching explosion of color, or a terrifying act of nature. Other times, it takes on a more subtle form, discovered only through a combination of patience, knowledge, and determination.

Turn the clock back a few hundred years, and you would find a culture that did not have the sophisticated data analysis techniques to uncover the truths of natural world that we have today.  Claims were often backed up by “common sense”.  Society lacked a way of quantifying information and letting the data speak for itself. But this mentality began to change in the 1800s, marking an important shift in our scientific culture that continues to this day.  While the process spanned several generations and countless individuals, one of the more interesting stories is that of a man named John Snow.