How a heavy mallet solves a complex problem

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How a heavy mallet solves a complex problem

450px-John_Snow_memorial_and_pubYou might have seen that the slogan we have up on our website is this:

“The common ground between complex problems and simple solutions.”

In explaining what this means we often refer to the use of an efficiency rudder used to improve the turning circle of ships (read about it here). In a similar light, I’ve discovered the story of John Snow as an example of how a simple solution can solve a complex problem …

In 1854, cholera broke out in a London district. It killed hundreds of people within a few days and the authorities were stumped as to the source of the cholera and how to stem it. John Snow had a suspicion that it was water borne and that by identifying the water pump the cholera was emanating from, and by neutralizing the pump, the outbreak would be curbed.

After discovering the Broad street pump as the source, he went to the authorities to report this and suggested they shut down the water pump. They demurred, but then agreed. From the prologue of Jeffrey Kluger’s Simplexity:

“The next day, a workman was sent to the the offending pump, heavy mallet in hand. He took several clanging swings at the fittings holding the handle in place. The metal peg popped free and the handle itself clattered to the street, rendering the pump useless.” .

“The complex illness could collide hard with the simple fix. And on this day at least, it was the simple fix that held its ground.”

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