The Ghost Map

This book is a must-read for all data visualization professionals, not just those in healthcare.

A few months ago, Andrew Fox demonstrated how to use SAP Lumira with geospatial mapping via its ESRI integration (see SAP Community Network article, Integrating SAP Lumira and ESRI mapping to deliver Location Intelligence). For his data set, Andrew used the map created in 1854 by physician John Snow in the midst of a cholera outbreak in London. I was able to learn more about the 1854 cholera outbreak by reading The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson (Penguin, ISBN 978-1594482694), who creates a gripping historical narrative. The Ghost Map itself was created by Dr. John Snow, a physician who was puzzled why some people contracted cholera and others did not.

The map is a brilliant work of information design and epidemiology, no doubt. But it is also an emblem of a certain kind of community— the densely intertwined lives of a metropolitan neighborhood— an emblem that, paradoxically, was made possible by a savage attack on that community.

Steven Johnson in The Ghost Map

Even though John Snow’s map clearly pointed to the Broad Street water pump, his analysis did not immediately gain traction. The prevailing understanding of disease in the mid-nineteenth century was the miasma theory, or literally “bad air”. It was thought that diseases such as cholera were carried by the foul smells. Psychologists refer to the inability to accept new facts that don’t agree with our assumptions as confirmation bias, something that humanity still combats today whether its a high-profile science issue like climate change or just the data in our monthly reports. But Dr. Snow finds an unlikely collaborator in the Reverend Henry Whitehead, who was originally skeptical of Dr, Snow’s research but won over based on his first-hand knowledge of the cholera victims in his parish.

It’s easy to look at 19th century scientific understanding with a critical eye from our perspective in the 21st century and our understanding of the germ theory of disease. I imagine there will be scientific discoveries made over the next 100 years that make our own present understanding of the physical world seem quaint to the citizens of the next century.

This book is a must-read for all data visualization professionals, not just those in healthcare.

UPDATE: SAP published the following 3-minute documentary about John Snow, How Data Turned a Doctor Into a Hero, on October 14, 2015.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Xcelsius 2008 Map Components

Geographic maps available in Xcelsius 2008

NOTE: This post was originally authored on 07/21/2008 and updated on 05/05/2009.

Xcelsius 2008 provides a large collection of geographic maps for data mapping. One of the challenges with working with those maps is specifying the region key lookup codes for each state/province/country on the map. Beginning with Xcelsius 2008 SP1, the product includes a handy Microsoft Excel reference in the samples folder, which is C:Program FilesBusiness ObjectsXcelsiusassetssamplesUser Guide Samples by default. Look for the MapRegions.xls file. (In the previous version of this post, I indicated that the spreadsheet was available on the SAP BusinessObjects Community web site but I can no longer find it there).

Here is a list of the maps included in Xcelsius 2008. Curiously, Canada by province was originally omitted from Xcelsius 2008 but was included in Xcelsius 2008 SP1 (see related article, O, Canada!). No official word on whether Mexico by state will also be added in a future fix pack or service pack.

Contenent Maps
World By Continent
Africa By Country
Asia By Country
Asia Pacific (large) by country
Asia Pacific (small) by country
Central America By Country
Europe (large) by country
Europe (large) by country Mercator
Europe (small) by country
European Union by country
Europe By Country
North America By Country
Oceania by country
South America By Country

Country Maps
Albania by region
Armenia by region
Australia by region
Austria by state
Azerbaijan by province
Belarus by region
Belgium by province
Bosnia And Herzegovina
Bulgaria by region
Canada by province (requires Service Pack 1)
Cambodia by province
China by region
Cyprus by district
Czech Republic by region
Denmark by county
Faroe Islands by region
Finland by province
France by region
Georgia by republic
Germany by state
Greece by prefecture
Hungary by county
Iceland by province
Indonesia by province
Italy by region
Japan by region
Kazakhstan by region
Kyrgyzstan by region
Laos by province
Luxembourg by district
Malaysia by state
Mongolia by province
Myanmar by region
Netherlands by province
New Zealand by region
North Korea by region
Northern Ireland
Norway by province
Papua New Guinea by region
Philippines by region
Poland by region
Portugal by province
Romania by county
Russia by mercator
Russia by region
San Marino
Serbia and Montenegro by region
Slovakia by region
South Korea by region
Spain by autonomous community
Sweden by county
Switzerland by canton
Thailand by province
Turkey by province
Turkmenistan by region
Ukraine by province
United Kingdom by region
USA (Continental)
Uzbekistan by region
Vatican City
Vietnam by province

State Maps
California By County