John Snow, epidemiologist, pharmacologist, anesthetist, and physician, celibate and crusader against alcohol, seems as pure as his name. As the perceptive epidemiologist of the cholera epidemics in London and Newcastle in the mid-19th century, he was the first to provide experimental data in support of the water-borne theory of the spread of the pathogenic agent. The demonstration of the anesthetic properties of ether and chloroform enabled him to display his talents in quite another field of medical science. He pursued a systematic pharmacological study of volatile anesthetic drugs and, with the information gained, used this to become the foremost anesthetist in London.
John was born in York in 1813, the son of a farmer. In private school, it is reported that he was eager to learn and was especially fond of mathematics. At the age of 14, he became a pupil of William Hardcastle, surgeon at Newcastle-on-Tyne, and studied at
JOHN SNOW. JAMA. 1964;188(5):462–463. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03060310062015