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It must be kept at mind that, despite of the outbreak around the

Broad Street pump, other areas in London were not free from cholera. It

could be established that from the 73 victims living close to the pump, 61

of them drank water from the pump. Adjusting the number of deaths

around the pump and the general toll of the outbreak in London in the area

of the Broad Street pump, only 14 deaths should have been expected. Snow

explained to the Board of Guardians of the area that the high number of

deaths very likely could be attributed to the water from the pump. He

therefore recommended the removal of the pump handle to inhibit any further infection. The

Board was not really convinced that the water from the pump actually caused the outbreak,

but since other counter measures had been undertaken the handle of the pump was also

disconnected. The fact that after removing the handle the outbreak soon came to a halt might

be taken as a good argument for Snow’s claim that the cause of the disaster was the water of

the pump. At the time the handle was taken off however, the incidence of the disease already


Search for the reason of the pollution

The search for the real reason of the outbreak initially did not favour those believing in

the miasma theory, but nor could Snow ultimately present evidence for the germ theory. An

argument against the miasma theory was the fact that the houses of all the victims were clean,

and that, out of the 535 inhabitants of a workhouse close to the pump, only 5 died. According

to the miasma theory one would expect a much higher number. However, Snow found out that

the facility had its own water supply and did not take water from the pump. Furthermore, the

workers in a nearby brewery survived. They drank beer, which they didn’t have to pay for,

and never the water. In fact they should have succumbed to the cholera, since according to the

miasma theory the drinking alcohol was dangerous.

Even though Snow could identify people, such as the customers of small coffee shops

and other facilities who drank the water and died, otherwise conclusive evidence for the

pollution of the pump was initially missing. The brickwork of the well was repeatedly

inspected, and no hole or crevice was found through which

polluted water could have been entered the well. A sewer drain

running along the street was not old and not found to be the

culprit for polluting the well. The Reverend Henry Whitehead

invited Snow to join the St. James parish committee.

Whitehead was probably as eager as Snow to find the

source of the epidemic. Although did not agree with Snow’s

theory, he liked the way Snow approached the problem. In

fact, it was Whitehead, who found the ultimate solution to the

mystery. He searched through reports of the Registrar General

from the week up to the 3


of September 1854, and on the 2


of September the death was recorded of a five-month old child

who died with symptoms of cholera in the house at number 40,

Broad Street. He realised that the child might be the first