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"The mode of propagation of cholera"

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Association Medical Journal
(16 February 1856)

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[In the letter below, Snow refers to the following passage from Shuttleworth's address: "Animal and vegetable physiology already rest upon results of chemical inquiry, and it will yield further secrets to the microscope, to analysis, and to experiment. In like manner, the phenomena of disease must be investigated. The discoveries of Dr. Semelweiss as to the mode of the propagation of puerperal fever by the cadaverous poison, and Dr. Budd's discovery of one mode of the dissemination of cholera by a poison evolved in the early stage of decomposition of the specific secretions, are facts which indicate, though they may not prove, the influence of virus [meaning the morbid matter specific to a particular disease] on the constitution of the blood, and the action of that fluid in a state of a disease on the solid parts. But perhaps the experimentum crucis of this department of observation consists in the discovery of Jenner" (abstracted in the Association Medical Journal 4 (9 February 1856): 118).

Letter from John Snow, M.D.

Sir,--It appears from the interesting report in the Journal of to-day of the address of Sir James Kay Shuttleworth at Manchester, that he alludes in complimentary terms to my conclusions regarding the propagation of cholera, as modified by a suggestion of Drs. Thiersch and Pettenkofer, but he erroneously attributes these views, so modified, to Dr. W. Budd. Dr. Alison fell into a similar mistake, which was afterwards rectified in the journal in which it had appeared--the Edinburgh Medical Journal--and I suspect that it is Dr. Alison's mistake which has misled Sir J. K. Shuttleworth. A few weeks after the first edition of my essay on cholera appeared, in 1849, Dr. W. Budd published a pamphlet on the subject, in which he adopted my views, and made a full and handsome acknowledgement of my priority. In the latter part of 1854 he also published a series of papers in the Association Medical Journal, containing some interesting facts in support of these views. These papers were published at first with the signature of "Common Sense"; but Dr. W. Budd avowed the authorship before their conclusion. In the number of the Journal for December 22nd, he gave a qualified adhesion to the opinion of Drs. Thiersch and Pettenkofer, that some kind of change or fermentation is necessary in the peculiar excretions of cholera to enable them to propagate the disease. This is a modification of my original views, which I, however, see no reason to adopt. In one or two places in his papers in the Association Journal, Dr. W. Budd advocates the propagation of cholera through the air, by means of the excretions, to a greater extent than I am inclined to admit; but with this and the before mentioned exceptions, his opinions respecting every point connected with the pathology and mode of communication of cholera are exactly those which I first published in 1849, and have since maintained.

I have not made the above remarks by way of complaint; but as my researches respecting cholera were conducted with great labour, and very much to the detriment of my more immediate interests, I feel it a duty not to allow the credit of them to pass from me by a mere mistake.

I am, etc.,

John Snow.

Sackville Stree, 8th February, 1856.

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