The Legacy of JSI’s Namesake

Dr. John Snow

john snow map with pump overlayJSI was founded in 1978 by Joel Lamstein and Norbert Hirschhorn. The organization was named after Dr. John Snow, widely considered to be one of the fathers of modern epidemiology.

We chose the name because of the groundbreaking, eveniconoclastic, approaches Dr. Snow took to understand and respond to the cholera epidemics plaguing London in the mid-1800s. By mapping where infected persons lived and interviewing them about their lives and daily practices, he theorized that the disease was spread by contact, not “miasma” (the prevalent theory of the time), and he identified the water pump on Broad Street as the likely source of infection.

John Snow’s maps of the patterns of the disease and clusters of cholera infection led the city to shut down the pump — and revolutionized the field of public health. We honor our namesake by maintaining his spirit of inquiry, his regard for evidence, and his use of new tools in the work we do every day.

Snow’s famous map was first exhibited at a meeting of the Epidemiological Society of London in December 1854. Check out JSI’s geographic information systems (GIS) work

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