Dr John Snow and an early investigation of groundwater contamination
John Snow was a physician but his studies of the way in which cholera is spread have long attracted the interest of hydrogeologists. From his investigation into the epidemiology of the cholera outbreak around the well in Broad Street, London, in 1854, Snow gained valuable evidence that cholera is spread by contamination of drinking water. Subsequent research by others showed that the well was contaminated by sewage. The study therefore represents one of the first, if not the first, study of an incident of groundwater contamination in Britain. Although he had no formal geological training, it is clear that Snow had a much better understanding of groundwater than many modern medical practitioners. At the time of the outbreak Snow was continuing his practice as a physician and anaesthetist. His casebooks for 1854 do not even mention cholera. Yet, nearly 150 years later, he is as well known for his work on cholera as for his pioneering work on anaesthesia, and his discoveries are still the subject of controversy.
Figures & Tables
The collection of papers in this volume records the development of hydrogeology in Britain over the last 200 years. Following the application, by William smith, of stratigraphic principles to the sinking of wells, Victorian engineers and scientists established groundwater as a major contributor to public water supplies. In the twentieth century, the development of groundwater continued rapidly, controlled by an ever-changing regulatory regime. The 25 papers in this volume review the progrss which has been made, and the lives and work of some of those who were intimately involved.