UW Today

August 28, 2012

Documents that Changed the World podcasts: John Snow’s cholera map, 1854

News and Information

Drawing water from one well meant life and the survival of your family; drawing from the other meant certain death from cholera.

This dramatic installment of the Documents that Changed the World podcast series is about life and death in Victorian London and a map physician John Snow created during an 1854 cholera outbreak that solved the mystery of contagion and marked the birth of modern epidemiology.

Documents that Changed the World

A podcast series by Joe Janes
UW Information School

These podcasts are also available on iTunes.

Transcripts and podcasts also available at the Information School website.

Joseph Janes, UW information school

Joseph Janes

The Documents that Changed the World podcast series is the brainchild of Joe Janes, a professor in the UW Information School. He uses the series to investigate the backstories and often evolving meaning of important historical documents, both famous and less known. His podcasts are available on itunes and on the iSchool website (along with transcripts), and UW Today is presenting them as an occasional series.

This installment, however, was written and narrated by Andrew Brink, a former student of Janes’ and a 2012 graduate of the Information School. It’s the only one in the series so far not written and recorded by Janes.

“I’d like to emphasize how important Andy was to gettting this project off the ground,” Janes said. “Working with him helped to focus and sharpen my ideas about what the podcast could and should be.” The two also worked together to learn basic audio recording and editing needed for the series.

John Snow's cholera map, 1854.

John Snow’s cholera map, 1854.

Janes said the John Snow map was a compelling topic because “it’s the Nineteenth Century version of big data; coalescing and condensing new and multiple streams of information — textual, numerical and observational — in ways they never had before, to make them far more useable.”

All that information, he said, is conveyed “in one little map that people know about, but that not everybody thinks about.”

Janes is working on several other installments and is pleased with the progress as the series approaches its 5,000th download.

Next time: Chairman Mao’s “little red book.”