Mainly, Johnson wrote this book to prove that one week in 1954 was one of the defining moments in what people today know as modern life. First, he proved that the first fateful week of September ultimately influenced the way cities organized themselves. Second, he proved that the events of the Broad Street Outbreak changed how disease was studied and viewed. Third, he proved that urban intelligence could come to understand a massive health crisis of which most people refused to see the truth.
Ultimately, the week of the Broad Street outbreak impacted the ways cities organized themselves. Solutions for problems such as cholera helped urbanization in advancing sanitation standards. The Great Stink of 1858 forced authorities to confront the problem of sewer lines emptying directly into the Thames River, and with the help of engineer Joseph Bazalgette, the city built a system of sewer lines that would carry both waste and surface water to the east, away from Central London. Eventually, the city began pumping sewage into the open sea. These sewers were a turning point; they demonstrated that a city could respond to a profound environmental and health crisis with a massive public-works project that actually solved the crisis. In the mid-19th century, London was the largest city in the world, with two and a half million people. No city in all of history had ever grown that big, and this city was dealing with many growing pains. Confronting, finding the answer to, and preventing the deadly outbreaks of cholera demonstrated the city’s ability to respond with a solution. This was one step that helped it grow. Johnson recounts a passage from The Lancet after the 1866 outbreak that had criticized Dr. John Snow and his intelligence. He writes, “‘[Dr. Snow] traced the history of cholera. We owe to him chiefly the severe induction by which the influence of the poisoning of water-supplies was proved. No greater service could be rendered to humanity than this; it has...
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