In Soho is a pub called the John Snow.

Who is John Snow and why is a pub named after him, and why in Soho?

It all concerns the cholera outbreak of 1854. Five hundred people died in two weeks.

For thousands of years, conventional wisdom had it that all diseases were spread by ‘miasma’: foul air, bad smells. But John Snow didn’t buy it.

He decided to get upstream and investigate the problem logically.

So first he did what no one else thought to do, he researched the data.

He marked on a map where all the victims lived, then he looked for a connection.

Right there, in the centre of all the dots, in Broad Street, was a water pump.

It was too much of a coincidence, he thought ‘germs’ were coming from this pump.

He presented his findings to the authorities, but they were locked into the ‘miasma’ explanation.

Disease didnt come from germs ‘in water, it came from the air, the proof was the foul-smelling air in Soho.

John Snow proved all the victims took water from the Broad Street pump.

But the authorities wouldn’t accept it.

Even though Snow’s ‘germ’ theory was validated by all the evidence it didn’t fit the answer they wanted: ‘miasma’.

They said Soho was ten feet lower than the rest of London, so that’s why the bad air settled there.

They said cholera wasn’t caused by ‘germs’ in the water, it was caused by ‘miasma’: bad, foul-smelling air.

Snow was desperate, he needed a dramatic demonstration.

So he removed the handle from the pump and hid it.

Without a handle no one could get any water from the Broad Street pump.

And the cholera epidemic stopped.

The original cause of the problem was that there were no sewers in London.

Everyone had cesspits under their houses, so they lived on top of human waste.

Soho had become so cramped that the cesspits were overflowing into the streets.

So the authorities began emptying the cesspits directly into the Thames.

Cesspits were emptied right by where the local water company was taking water for the Broad Street pump.

So people were effectively drinking their own sewage.

When John Snow took the handle off the pump he removed the source of cholera.

Ten years after his death the authorities were forced to admit he’d been correct.

His ‘germ’ theory was right and the ‘miasma’ explanation was wrong.

John Snow is now recognised as the founding father of epidemiology: the science of using patterns and statistics to make deductions.

Why investigation should come before treatment.

First investigate the problem.

By doing that we can get upstream and change the problem.

And that must automatically give us access to a different solution.

Broad Street, where the pump was located, is now called Broadwick Street.

For me it’s appropriate the John Snow pub is there, and especially appropriate it used to be BBHs local.

BBH was the agency some of the best UK advertising came from.

And BBH always came at problems out of a question, not out of a ready-formed answer.

And thats where the best creative works starts, in advertising or anywhere else.