Author Steven Johnson charts an investigative tale with echoes of today’s pandemic in The Ghost Map, mapping the source of the horrific cholera outbreak in 19th-century London. Protagonist John Snow coordinated with Henry Whitehead, a local curate and trusted community member, to collect data on residents’ daily habits and the incidence of the disease. As pioneers of epidemiology, Snow and Whitehead used maps to document street-level knowledge. Their interdisciplinary collaboration and unfettered curiosity inspired my path as a data journalist and health researcher.
Their emphasis on community-based knowledge to solve a public health crisis parallels my innate respect for local people as experts of their lived experiences. My citizen science approach involves community members leading research projects.