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The Mystery of the Blue Death

A Case Study in Epidemiology and the History of Science


Author(s)

Susan Bandoni Muench
Biology Department
SUNY Geneseo
bandoni@geneseo.edu

Abstract

This historical case study describes the story of John Snow’s discovery of water-borne transmission of cholera in 19th-century London. Designed for use in a Global Health class, the case explores cholera outbreaks and their causes as well as models of disease. In addition, the case provides a framework for discussing the nature of science, particularly non-experimental tests of hypotheses, the cultural context of science, and populational thinking. The case could be used in a variety of other contexts, including courses in microbiology and introductory biology for either majors or non-majors. Because it addresses the nature of science, it is also appropriate for courses in the history, philosophy, or sociology of science.


Objectives

  • Apply terminology and concepts from epidemiology and public health to a case study.
  • Explore aspects of the nature of science, including the role of models in hypothesis testing, non-experimental tests of hypotheses, and populational thinking.
  • Explore the relationship between science and the surrounding culture, and cultural and class influences on the practice of science.

Keywords

Cholera; Vibrio cholera; diarrheal disease; infectious disease; water-borne disease; models of disease; epidemiological methods; experimental design; hypothesis testing; populational thinking; health inequities; John Snow; London

Topical Areas

History of science, Scientific method, Social issues, Social justice issues

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, Graduate, Professional (degree program)

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Interrupted

Language

English

Subject Headings

Epidemiology  |   Public Health  |   Microbiology  |   Medicine (General)  |  


Date Posted

01/06/09

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