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From Cholera to Covid-19: How integrated data visualizations inform decisions and impact a

Updated: Aug 8, 2020

London, circa 1854. A deadly cholera outbreak has caught the neighborhood of Soho in its teeth. The young, the old, the hale, the weak—this is an indiscriminate disease, and it’s moving fast. Hundreds die in little more than a week. The medical community races to provide solutions, but the best scientific methods of the day fail to have an impact. 

There’s no miracle cure in this story. Instead there’s a young doctor named John Snow, and a radical idea. Thirty years before the world would read about a certain Mr. Holmes, Snow appoints himself a detective and heads into the heart of Soho to collect, integrate, and analyze data related to cholera deaths, pioneering the concept of epidemiology along the way. He plotted his findings on a map of Soho (see Figure 1), which persuaded officials to disable a public water pump that may have been a source of the outbreak. At about the same time, cholera deaths slowed and then stopped.

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