Saturday, August 12, 2017

An R library to analyze and map John Snow's 1854 Cholera data

As many of you will know, an English physician called John Snow mapped the cholera outbreak in the Soho district of London in 1854. That map would later be a key element in the discovery that cholera was caused by contaminated water, not air. It's fair to say this map somehow changed history not only because of the lives it helped save, but perhaps more importantly because of the ways it opened human imagination to the role of spatial analysis in science and human development. Steven Johnson has written a book about the story of this map and its influence on modern science and cities. If you are short in time, there is a great 9-minute video summary of the book here.

All this introduction to say that now there is an R library that allows you to analyze and map John Snow's 1854 Cholera data yourself. Thanks Bob Rudis for calling attention to this library on twitter. Dani Arribas-Bel also pointed out to this chapter / online notebook that presents the documented code for a reproducible spatial analysis of John Snow’s map using mostly Python. This is great material for teaching.

update 16 Aug 2017: RJ Andrews has also pointed me to this paper analyzing the mortality rates and the space-time patterns of John Snow’s cholera epidemic map.



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