We recently attended a talk by Michael Palin at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in London. Hosted by the British Cartographic Society (BCS), this talk was billed as the headline event in a year that marks the society’s 50th anniversary.
Upon our rain-drenched arrival, we took to our seats in the impressive Ondaatje Theatre and waited intently as BCS president, Peter Jones introduced the guest speaker to the stage. As former president of the Royal Geographical Society, Michael Palin was in familiar surroundings. He began his hour-long talk by reciting memories of his childhood when he would spend long periods of time pensively poring over maps and atlases, overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of the world. It was these graphical depictions of the world that ignited his desire to travel, something for which he is now notorious. His love of maps was evident as he told of one atlas that he owns and treasures, a family heirloom which he has had refurbished. Of the maps that accompany him on his travels he said, “maps, like notebooks, are the raw materials of my work, constant companions.”
In 1854 a severe outbreak of cholera swept through the Soho district of London, resulting in the death of hundreds of people. Many believed the cause of deaths were linked to ‘bad air’, however a physician named John Snow was determined to get to the bottom of the devastating outbreak.
John Snow strongly believed that the deaths were linked to the local areas water supply and began to mark the locations of each death as a dot on a map centred on Bond Street (now Broadwick Street). The map highlighted large clusters of fatalities in the vicinity of the Bond Street pump, from where residents used to get their water from. Snow suspected that this water pump was the source of the outbreak.
In order to add more proof to his theory Snow added a further line to his map – an irregular shaped loop that marked the boundary between the Broad Street pump and other water pumps in the area. The new boundary line showed the residents and workers who could access the Broad Street pump the quickest.
The map now clearly displayed that the majority of deaths had occurred within the drawn boundary, reinforcing the fact that the Broad Street pump was the source. This map became the central piece of evidence that convinced the authorities of cholera’s waterborne transmission and of their need to improve the sewer system.
Recently we told you about the new OS OpenData Award that we’re providing to the British Cartographic Society, offering you the chance to win an Apple iPad. Today we bring you a guest blog from one of our Cartographic Designers, Charley Glynn, who has used one of our freely available products to map all five of our head offices from 1791 to the present day:
As cartographic designers,my team and I get a lot of opportunity to design and develop topographic maps. We’re very familiar with making leisure maps and creating custom styles for contextual maps which is why we are particularly excited when we get the opportunity to submit work into map galleries. They give us the chance to build on our own map ideas, exercise our creativity and try out new tools and techniques. One such gallery is being hosted at the FOSS4G 2013 conference, the global conference for free and open source software for geospatial use, organised by the Open Source Geospatial Foundation. With that and our new BCS OS OpenData Award in mind I decided to take this opportunity to create something different from my ‘norm’.