England: The Broad Street Pump – You Know Nothing, John Snow – Extra History – #1

England: The Broad Street Pump – You Know Nothing, John Snow – Extra History – #1


“The noxious vapors that cause
disease, are known as miasma. The miasma spreads through the
air and as it is breathed in, the human being becomes
possessed of sickness.” “Uhm… I’m not sure
that is how it works…” “You know nothing, John Snow!” John Snow, yes really, was no lord’s
son. He was born to a coal yard worker in one of the poorest neighborhoods
of York. It was 1813. Napoleon had just retreated from Russia
and the Industrial Revolution in England was in full swing. Young Snow’s
mind outpaced his setting. He was a perspicacious youth,
always curious and inquisitive. Always digging in to whatever he found. His mother noticed her child’s
perpetually active mind and swore to herself that he
would be no coal hand. She took a small inheritance
that she had come into and paid to send him to school. He took to schooling like nothing else. By the time he was 14, he was
apprenticed to a doctor in Newcastle and it was here that he would first
meet the specter that would haunt the rest of his life: cholera. You
see, cholera had its roots in India, but with the increase in trade and
transport in the 19th century, it crept its way up to Russia, then
crawled westward through Europe. First making its way to London and then
to Newcastle in 1831. But so many were struck so fast by
the disease, that the doctor who Snow was apprentice to was overloaded. And so it was at the age of 18, that
John Snow was sent alone into the horror of the coal slums to treat the
coal workers dying of this disease. And make no mistake: cholera is one of
the most terrifying diseases out there. It doesn’t cause the unimaginable
mortality rate of the plagues, smallpox or even some strains of influenza, but
it’s a horrific disease to contract. A disease whose horror
is in how it manifests, how it takes over a person’s body. It is
swift and utterly wretched. Cholera can take a healthy person,
and leave them a husk overnight. And its onset is sudden: a person
can be walking down the street and then all of a sudden they’ll grab
their stomach and fall to the ground spewing vomit and diarrhea. They’ll
continue to expel diarrhea at up to 20 liters a day (about 5.3 gallons)
until their skin becomes turgid and their blood turns to sludge, becoming
too dehydrated and thick to circulate due to how much fluid the person’s lost.
Then the organs shut down one by one. And the person dies, not directly
because of an action of the disease, but because they’ve lost so much fluid
that their body can no longer form the plasma it needs to keep itself alive. And all the things John Snow had learned
as an apprentice achieved nothing. From house to house he’d walk, trying
to apply every technique know to medicine at the time to treat the sick;
bleeding, opium, strong herbs to keep off the miasma. All of
these things had no effect and patient after patient died. Even
when he tried giving them water, no mater how much water he gave them,
they’d appear better for a few short hours, then they would soon sink back
down to torpor and finally death. So despite his training, one by one as
he made his rounds, he left his patient’s blue pale corpse behind. His idea to rehydrate them was correct,
but the medical community was only just beginning to understand that the
excessive diarrhea not only caused a loss of water, but a loss of sodium
as well, which is a key component of blood plasma. And it wouldn’t be
until the 20th century that the major breakthrough was made. When it was
discovered that drinking glucose would help a cholera ravaged intestinal
system take up the saline it so desperately needed.
And so John Snow’s patients died. But as an apprentice, he’d kept
meticulous journals with his observations and theories. He had seen that coal
workers would often be struck down by cholera deep in the coal pits, far from
the graveyards, swamps or sewage pools that the infectious miasma
was thought to seep from. So he hypothesized that there must
be something else going on. He didn’t know exactly what, but he
tried to express to local doctors that, rather than miasma, there was something.
Something that could persist in water and be transmitted from person to
person that caused disease. And they all told him:
“You know nothing John Snow.” And so, as the cholera epidemic
eventually passed as mysteriously as it had come, John Snow
moved on to other work. He bounced between apprenticing for a
few other doctors, until in 1836 he went to London to begin his formal
education in medicine. And he was a man who loved education.
In one year he completed the schooling necessary to get a license
as a General Practitioner. Then he got his Apothecaries’ License.
Then he received a bachelor’s and a Doctorate in medicine, which
apparently wasn’t a requirement for practicing medicine at the time. And finally, he qualified to join the
Royal College of Surgeons, which is about as rad a doctor thing
as you could do in those days. During this period, John doing
serious study on anesthesia. You see, before Snow, most doctors of
the day would just pour some chloroform on a rag and toss it over
their patient’s face. Nighty night! See you in a few hours,
if you’re lucky. But Snow began to scientifically test
dosages and assess what mixtures at what times, were the most effective. His work revolutionized anesthesiology. In fact, his work was so acclaimed, he
even twice anesthetized the queen herself. And the medical community finally said:
“You know something, John Snow.” But he had never forgotten cholera, that specter that had been burned
into him in his youth. And in 1848, when John was 35,
cholera returned to haunt London. This time he was determined
not to let it win. He knew cholera wasn’t
just a result of bad air And he was determined to prove it. He reached out to all of his connections
in the medical community and tracked down the first case of the new
outbreak. A sailor named John Harnold. He had a lead! He went and immediately
talked to the physician who treated mister Harnold, only to find out that
he had treated another man in the exact same room mister Harnold rented
8 days after mister Harnold died. The case was afoot. John suspected contagion, perhaps from
soiled bed linens that had gone unwashed after the first death. Not miasma from
some poison floating in the air. No, this disease was transferred
from one man to another. He was sure of it.
He just needed proof. Cases began to pop up
all over London and he raced from one lead to the next. Interviewing patients and physicians
to see if he could draw the link. He was told by one person after another
that the pain started in their intestines, which led him to believe that the
disease must be caused by something they ingested, rather than something
they inhaled. Otherwise, wouldn’t the disease start in the nose or the
throat or the lungs? So, obviously not all of his
reasoning was perfect, but it did lead him down the
right path in this case. He theorized that the diarrhea caused
by cholera, might not only be a symptom, but also how the disease was spread.
Now, because the term ‘ germs’ was frowned upon by many in the medical
profession at the time, he started writing about how cholera was caused by
a ‘self multiplying poison’ found in the water contaminated
by fecal matter. He did a case study. He found a street
where on one side, all the waste poured out by the residents flowed toward the
well they got their drinking water from. Whereas, on the other side, the waste
flowed away from their well. He surveyed all those living
on either side of the street. On the side where the well water mixed
with the sewage, almost all of the inhabitants were laid low. On the
other side of the street, only one person succumbed to cholera.
He had it, he had his proof. He wrote furiously. Detailing it all
out and then raced to the presses. He’d done it! His pamphlets circulated
the city. The most learned minds of the day, heard what he discovered!
And they said: “You know nothing, John Snow.” Join us next time as John Snow goes
full statistical Sherlock Holmes to show that cholera is spread
through the water. And invents the science of epidemiology
in the process.

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100 Replies to “England: The Broad Street Pump – You Know Nothing, John Snow – Extra History – #1”

  1. If john snow didnt find a cure then today my bro wont be alive because during 90s my bro and my parents live in village and that diseases was common for kids of all age my mother told me so many story about kids and newborn die because there was no doc in village . my dad was police officer in remote village he had a night shift plus that time only few hand full people had phone that village didnt have any doc in 90s story goes like this in night my bro got sick my mom knew she have act quickly without doc my bro will die for sure.
    mom tooks us and left village in night alone she knew if she wastes time for dad to come back in morning that maybe will be too late and went to city which was 35km away without any transportation or vehicle or road some how she manage to find Hospital in close city Pusad
    My older bro health was in electrical condition doc said he wont have live if my mother stay in village where there was no doc that why we need good doc hospitals medical stores every single city and village

  2. Cholera is like a Goblin. A threat that is serious but no one really care about because they thought it's easy to defeat. And John Snow is the Goblin Slayer

  3. If only he had just given up and been like.
    Ok I'm going to give you some salted pork and a pastry so your last meal will atleast be good.
    After that they would all be prescribed a diet of bacon and cake.

  4. Imagine my surprise when John Snow and the Broad Street pump appeared on last night's episode of Victoria. I had to come back here for a re-watch. 🙂

  5. I just literally had an essay on my exam about living conditions in 1800 century London and this series helped a lot.
    Thank you extra credits, very cool

  6. I remember learning about this, and my professor went in depth into how they determined the pump and the cause, it was actually really cool

  7. I don't see what was wrong with his reasoning that gut symptoms means it might be something they ingested. It makes sense that if it's airborne, your lungs and airways get hit first, but if it's ingested, your gut gets hit first

  8. I can just see John Snow and Yi Sun Shin in the afterlife, drinking tea and griping about how they kept doing great things- only to be shunned by their peers.

  9. I was John Snow for my school’s wax museum and I had to tell a lot of people I was and not the Game of Thrones guy

  10. Haha my last name is Snow…..

    I get a lot of Game of Thrones reference even though I hated it
    I decided that I had to watch it to understand the reference

  11. I have to do the history of medicine for my GCSE so re watching this techinicly counts as revision (although id much rather be doing Byzantine history I love the Justinian series)

  12. Imagine a team up of all the genius's that were forsaken by there superiors, coming together to form a government. Admiral Yi obviously runs the navy, we've got John Snow up there running the Health Department. Who else?

  13. It takes 12 Years to learn that the school system is trash and useless. It takes 1 year for a guy to become a super hero doctor. wtf.

  14. In the intro you gave the bad guy a British accent and the good (also British!) guy an American accent. The stereotype of American film casting is real!

  15. It's scary to think that it was just 200 years ago that they didn't know bacteria existed, and thought that disease was spread by bad smells. 200 years. That's not long ago at all. It makes me wonder what kinds of ignorant things we are doing now that we aren't aware of.

  16. I doubt anyone will bloody see this comment, but 0:00 to 0:03 sounds like David Fletcher from the Bovington Tank museum. That's all, cheers.

  17. The fact that Drunk History hasn't done an episode on this, with Kit Harrington in Full Lord Commander getup with the black leather and fur ensemble as John Snow, is a missed opportunity if there ever was one.

  18. You know nothing, John Snow!
    All you have going for you is your resurrection!
    And THAT was because we let out the miasma out of your lungs when you were dead through surgery, so that you would come back to life, seemingly without reason.

  19. Yay Momma Snow! There should be more “rad doctor things” for people to do these days. Achievement drives excellence.

  20. This series keeps me wondering something: How much evidence was there for the miasma theory? It seems like everyone went with "We agree to it, so unless you have all the proof, even if you have much more proof than us, you're wrong"

  21. John Snow: oops I accidentally a five certification in a year
    Also John Snow: oops I accidentally an epidemiology

  22. Between this and Sweating Sickness, both are terrible. One, you sweat to death and the other you shit yourself to death.

  23. Gorrge RR Martin probably knows this. This leads me to think The Great Other uses Disease to make the Wight Walker's. I have not watch season 8 so don't tell me anythig you comment people

  24. I truly wonder how much better off we'd be medically now if "learned people" back in the day didn't have their heads up their asses and refused to listen to new theories. Even if we're not much better, imagine how much SOONER we'd have gotten better

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