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Our History 

John Snow College was founded in 2001 and based at The Queen’s Campus, Stockton until 2018. Following the decision to move us to Durham, we then had a peripatetic period moving first to Howland’s Farm (the current location of Stephenson College) and then to Rushford Court in the city centre, before settling at Mount Oswald at the start of 2020 – just in time for the pandemic.

The current Principal and Vice Principal both started in Summer 2023 and are excited to take the College into the next chapter of its story.


Who was Dr John Snow?Dr John Snow

John Snow was born on 15 March 1813 in York, the eldest of nine children in a working-class family.  At the age of 14, he secured a medical apprenticeship, then worked in County Durham and Yorkshire before moving to London and founding his own practice in Soho. He became renowned for his research into anaesthesia and was later Queen Victoria’s obstetrician. But he is most celebrated for his contribution to public health.

In the 1850s, the prevailing wisdom was that cholera, a disease which killed hundreds of people a year in poor and overcrowded urban areas, was transmitted by something called miasma, or ‘bad air’.  Snow was sceptical of this theory and during a cholera outbreak in Soho in 1854, he embarked on detailed research, speaking to residents and plotting cholera cases on a map. He used statistics to demonstrate the link between contaminated water and cholera, tracing the source of the outbreak to a public water pump on Broad Street and presented his evidence to the parish authority.

He later wrote: ‘In consequence of what I said, the handle of the pump was removed on the following day’. The subsequent identification of cholera as a water-borne disease led to the development of modern sanitation and sewage systems in our towns and cities.

We are named after Dr John Snow and we commemorate him in our College artifacts: there is a replica of the Broad Street pump at the entrance to the College and the buildings here in College: Broadwick St, Lexington, Hopkins, Carnaby, Bridle, Marshall and Wardour are named after streets in Soho where he carried out his research.

And our college motto - per scientiam et prudentiam quaere summum – to seek the highest through knowledge and wisdom - reflects Snow’s approach. Seeking the highest good – saving human life - through application of the scientific method.

The History of Dr John Snow

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