Offline: A lie at the heart of public health

The John Snow Society describes their illustrious namesake as “the pioneer of epidemiological
method”. His identification of the source of cholera in Soho, London, and the removal
of the handle of a water pump in Broad Street in 1854 is celebrated annually with
the Pumphandle Lecture. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine named a
lecture theatre after Snow. Indeed, the epidemiology community has deified Snow as
a founding father of public health. But, as Jim Downs argues in his searching reappraisal
of the origins of epidemiology, Maladies of Empire, western epidemiologists have invented
a comforting myth, one that disguises the horrific reality of a discipline that grew
out of colonialism, slavery, and war.

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