The effective intermixing of culture and science is pivotal for the growth of a large metropolitan region. We see this intermixing one of the largest metropolitan regions in the world, London.There are many examples of how culture and science mesh together to create what English society is today, but one example that truly personifies the relationship between culture and science is that of the cholera outbreak in London in the 1800s.
(To the left is a picture of John Booth’s poverty map.This is not particularly for the Soho region, but it is just a general indication of how economic disparity was charted by Mr. Booth. The image was courtesy of Holly Martin’s Blog)
At the time, the mainly affected areas of Soho were considered to be part of the lower class neighborhoods of London as suggested by Charles Booth’s poverty map. This was an area where members of upper classes did not venture and it was considered silly if they did. The first who did were “Benjamin Hall and his public-health committee who made their triumphant appearance on the streets of Soho, they were little more than tourists, goggling at all the despair and death, and then retreating back to the safety of Westminster or Kensington” (Johnson). Essentially what has happened here is that the confines of a class hierarchy have overstepped the need to provide treatment for fellow human beings. “Class before medicine” is how I would describe this unfortunate situation. How can a society develop and prosper when such stringent lines are drawn between portions of the city and alienate groups of people? The fundamental tenet of developing a city, is unity. Unity here is lacking not because of the cholera disease but because of the “disease of class”. Yet, John Snow broke this barrier as “Snow was a true native. That gave him both an awareness of how the neighborhood actually worked, and it gave him a credibility with the residents, on whose intimate knowledge of the outbreak Snow’s inquiry dependent” (Johnson).
This is a digitalized version of John Snow’s cholera data, provided by Robin’s Blog.
Without taking the time to talk to residents and venture around the streets of Soho, John Snow would not have been able to trace the origins of the outbreak. If he too had followed his colleagues from Benjamin Hall, there wouldn’t have been development in the area of medicine and epidemiology as we know it today. Cultural norms of society mandated that members of the upper and lower class not mix, and that did not allow for the growth of science. In this case culture and science were contradictory forces acting against each other.
In modern-day society, science and culture have a different relationship altogether; they have a more mutual relationship that serves as a seed for new growth in today’s society. An example of such a relationship was from a first hand experience I had gotten prior to the start of this trip. I was speaking to Dr. Chandra Cheruvu, a Consultant Bariatric and Laparoscopic Surgeon who works at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.
On the left is a picture of Dr. Cheruvu who talked about the relationship between culture and science based on his daily experiences as a physician.
He was explaining the relationship between culture and science in a hospital setting. Dr. Cheruvu says that “understanding a patient’s cultural beliefs and/or predispositions is just as vital as understanding the science behind the procedure that the person will receive”. Essentially what Dr. Cheruvu is saying, is that it is crucial to break away from the idea of treating one differently based on their economic background, where they live, or what their position on the economic hierarchy of society. He is a strong proponent of the National Health System as it forces physicians to unwaveringly give treatment to patients regardless of their background. This particular view on the relationship between culture and science is similar to the research I will be conducting at Oxford. The field study I will be conducting will be analyzing whether quality of healthcare changes between particular economic regions of the city. Thereby, it is integral to understand the relationship between culture and science in past and present society prior to undertaking the project. Also, one can see how the relationship between culture and science (namely medicine) has evolved so much over time from the days of the prejudiced Benjamin Hall. Now the reason for a bustling and thriving society is due to the positive relationship that exists between the two. Perhaps this evolution was catalyzed by the revolutionary acts of John Snow that has made London what it is today: a thriving metropolis.
Chandra Cheruvu Bio: http://www.uhns.nhs.uk/OurServices/ClinicalServices/AZofClinicalServices/BariatricSurgery/Meettheteam.aspx
Holly Martin’s Blog: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v661/anders1227/poverty_map.jpg
Johnson: A reference to the ghost maps excerpts written by Steven Johnson
Robin’s Blog: http://blog.rtwilson.com/john-snows-cholera-data-in-more-formats/