Bicentennial of John Snow

15 March marks the bicentennial of Sir John Snow (1813-1858), who was born on this day 200 years ago.


15 Mar 2013 | UK

Snow was the founder of epidemiology and a notable Victorian scientist. He was the first person to prove that cholera is a water-related disease when he tracked a London outbreak of the disease to a water pump in Soho's Broad Street. 

By looking at cases of cholera across London, Snow combined his local knowledge of with medical expertise to prove that cholera is transmitted by water.

Today we cannot imagine cholera spreading through our drinking water in London, but it is a risk many millions of people face every day without access to safe water and sanitation. 

WaterAid speaker, Michael Foster, will be giving a free talk on WaterAid and our work at 1pm, Friday 15 March, at the Broad Street water pump that was key to Snow's discovery. The talk will be hosted by The Museum of Water, a live community engagement project. Please come along to hear how safe water and sanitation are still saving lives across the world today, as well as giving people hope for the future.

To commemorate Sir Snow and his vital work, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is also holding an exhibition on his work

Bisha Nayek with his family, Burjan tea garden, Sylhet, Bangladesh, 2011.

Bisha's story

Bisha Nayek, 46, lives and works in Burjan tea garden, Sylhet, Bangladesh, with wife and five children. Bisha caught cholera after an outbreak in 1984. Only since then has the community started protecting their water sources and stopped using water from the lake.

He says, "I regularly attend the meetings that IDEA [a partner organisation] hold and they tell us to wash our hands before and after eating, to drink pure water, to keep our ground clean and to use the latrine. 

"Now we are able to clean ourselves and be safe. We used to go to the toilet anywhere in the past – in the jungle or in the lake. Very often the mosquitoes and flies were disturbing us, everything was dirty and it smelled."