Friday, January 8, 2010

American miasma

'(I)n supporting the miasmatic theory of disease propagation, (he) added that some settlements in the Americas had been rendered dangerous by the ploughing of virgin soil, which had exposed decaying vegetable matter and the “miasms” that arose from it.'

If you have any interest in history then you should read:
Death and miasma in Victorian London: an obstinate belief in the British Medical Journal.

It's only three pages long but is very interesting and ties in to a lot of the events we mentioned in class (miasma, the Big stink, John Snow, Bazalgette etc). I thought the quote (above) about America was interesting and also the paper again, emphasizes the point that the miasma theory was close - but dangerously wrong. In improving the situation in London the advocates of the miasma theory advocated cleaning up houses and streets
first (to get rid of the smell where people lived) and only then the river. Cleaning up houses and streets was a good idea and probably helped but because the river was the lowest priority much of the waste (human and otherwise) from the streets and houses was simply poured into the river - the source of much of their drinking water - creating perfect conditions for a water borne disease like cholera.

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