A Review on John Snow’s (1813-1858 CE) Contributions to the Epidemiology and Anesthesiology

Samad EJ Golzari, Zahid Hussain Khan, Ali Dabbagh, Hadiseh Kavandi, Ata Mahmoodpoor, Babak Sabermarouf, Hassan Soleimanpour, Kazem Khodadoust, Behnam Dalfardi, Mojtaba Heydari, Kamyar Ghabili


“In riding his hobby very hard, he has fallen down through a gully hole and has never since been able to get out again”

“Has he any facts to show in proof? No!”*

* From an Editorial on John Snow’s theories published in the Lancet in 1855



John Snow, the famous physician, epidemiologist and anesthetist, was born on March 15th, 1813 in York, England (Image 1). He was the eldest of nine children born to William and Frances Snow in their North Street home. His first 12 years of life were spent in a poor and unsanitary area in Michaelgate. River Ouse, which provided the drinking water for the people and often contaminated with excreta, was in the vicinity of his home. This exposed him and his family to the danger of flooding and contamination with excrements of drinking water (1).

After financial status of his father improved, they moved to a more wholesome area which was appropriate for the children's education. When he was 14, he was apprenticed to William Hardcastle, a surgeon in Newcastle upon Tyne School of Medicine. Later, he attended in lectures and visited the different wards of the local infirmary (2).

His apprenticeship was finished in 1833. Between 1833 and 1836 Snow worked as an assistant to a colliery surgeon. He returned to London after completing his education to get a London degree and became a student in the Royal College of Surgeons and began working at the Westminster Hospital. Snow finished his education in 1844. Then he was elected as the chancellor of the London Medical Society. Snow suffered a stroke while working in his London office on June 10th, 1858. He was 45 years old at the time. This valuable and memorable researcher and scientist died in London on June 16th, 1858 aged 45 years from a stroke. He was buried in Brompton Cemetery (3). Many books, papers, and letters to journals on various topics such as rickets, chest deformities, the circulation of the blood, lead poisoning, and scarlet fever have been written by Snow during his short life (4).

Full Text:



Leaman A. John Snow MD--his early days. Anaesthesia. 1984; 39(8):803-5.

Snow SJ. John Snow MD (1813-1858). Part II: becoming a doctor - his medical training and early years of practice. J Med Biogr. 2000; 8(2):71-7.

Maltby JR, Bamforth BJ. The Wood Library-Museum's 1858 edition of John Snow's On chloroform and other anaesthetics. Anesth Analg. 1990; 71(3):288-94.

Hill AB. The environment and disease: association or causation? 1965. J R Soc Med. 2015; 108(1):32-7. doi: 10.1177/0141076814562718.

Paneth N. Assessing the contributions of John Snow to epidemiology: 150 years after removal of the broad street pumphandle. Epidemiology. 2004; 15(5):514-6.

Robens. The fourteenth John Snow Memorial Lecture. Anaesthesia. 1973; 28(2):170-5.

Cameron D, Jones IG. John Snow, the broad street pump and modern epidemiology. Int J Epidemiol. 1983; 12(4):393-6.

Fine P, Victora CG, Rothman KJ, Moore PS, Chang Y, Curtis V, Heymann DL, Slutkin G, May RM, Patel V, Roberts I, Wortley R, Torgerson C, Deaton A. John Snow's legacy: epidemiology without borders. Lancet. 2013; 381(9874):1302-11. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60771-0.

Ashbolt NJ. Microbial contamination of drinking water and disease outcomes in developing regions. Toxicology. 2004; 198(1-3):229-38.

Vandenbroucke JP. Changing images of John Snow in the history of epidemiology. Soz Praventivmed. 2001; 46(5):288-93.

Colwell RR. Global climate and infectious disease: the cholera paradigm. Science. 1996; 274(5295):2025-31.

Newsom SW. Pioneers in infection control: John Snow, Henry Whitehead, the Broad Street pump, and the beginnings ofgeographical epidemiology. J Hosp Infect. 2006; 64(3):210-6. Epub 2006 Aug 7.

McLeod KS. Our sense of Snow: the myth of John Snow in medical geography. Soc Sci Med. 2000; 50(7-8):923-35.

Paneth N, Fine P. The singular science of John Snow. Lancet. 2013; 381(9874):1267-8.

Webb JC, Mergler D, Parkes MW, Saint-Charles J, Spiegel J, Waltner-Toews D, Yassi A, Woollard RF. Tools for thoughtful action: the role of ecosystem approaches to health in enhancing public health. Can J Public Health. 2010; 101(6):439-41.

JNewsom SW. Pioneers in infection control: John Snow, Henry Whitehead, the Broad Street pump, and the beginnings ofgeographical epidemiology. Hosp Infect. 2006; 64(3):210-6.

MACKINTOSH JM. Snow, the man and his times. Proc R Soc Med. 1955; 48(12):1004-7

BROWN PE. ANOTHER LOOK AT JOHN SNOW. Anesth Analg. 1964; 43:646-54.

Caton D. John Snow's practice of obstetric anesthesia. Anesthesiology. 2000; 92(1):247-52.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2013-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD.

Advances in Bioscience and Clinical Medicine