In the turmoil and urgency of the cholera outbreak of 1854, John Snow was unlike his fellow scientists. His ways of thinking outside the box helped him establish a principle that would become key to public health– the most pressing thing to learn about an active communicable disease is its mode of transmission.
While other scientists struggled with identifying the microscopic agent responsible for the illness itself, Snow was looking to contain its spread. He was eventually taken a theory he’d become famous for. His ideas on cholera’s waterborne transmission were radical in the face of London’s general acceptance of the miasma theory.
Snow was able to identify a water pump as the source of the outbreak. As soon as it was removed, cases lessened in numbers. Though it was clear he had hit the bull’s eye with his hypothesis, it wasn’t widely accepted until a decade later.