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Winter 2004/2005
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Exploring How Mapping Has Helped People Understand and Treat Illness

Cartographies of Disease: A New Book Due From Esri Press

In an important new book to be published by Esri Press in spring 2005, author Tom Koch explores the role that mapping has played in man's ongoing struggle to understand and treat illness. book coverIn Cartographies of Disease: Maps, Mapping, and Medicine, he argues that we are all fellow travelers in the war against disease as well as agents complicit in their engagement. The communities we build, the technologies that enable them, and the commerce that sustains them together assure an environment favorable to the advance of microscopic disease agents. In a real way, medical science plays catch-up with the health problems we create in our evolving society; its scientific advances are a response to the diseases we foster through economic, environmental, and social choices.

It is no accident that medical mapping blossomed in the 19th century during the first great period of international trade and emigration or that its renaissance began in the 1990s during a new era of globalization. In both the early to mid-19th and late 20th centuries, similar elements coalesced to advance simultaneously a range of epidemic and chronic diseases as well as the mechanisms by which they might be understood. Medical mapping was a part of that process of understanding.

Cartographies of Disease: Maps, Mapping, and Medicine (ISBN: 1589481208, $44.95) is the first comprehensive survey of the technology of mapping and its relation to the battle against disease. The book opens with an early history of medical mapping, including an in-depth analysis of the historic John Snow cholera maps. It covers the evolution of increasingly sophisticated medical mapping driven by the work of public health agencies and epidemiologists, ultimately taking the reader all the way into the modern area of computerized mapmaking and data driven GIS. Importantly, it advances a radical argument that maps are not merely representations of aspects of "what is" but, rather, graphic depictions of a special kind of thinking: map thinking, an inherently ecological approach to spatial and statistical studies of human beings, diseases, and environments. Cartographies of Disease: Maps, Mapping, and Medicine will be available for advance order beginning in April 2005 from Esri Press (

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