These are historic disease maps of the United States, depicting its natural disease patterns based on the local climate, latitude and topography.  These maps were produced by  Heinrich Berghaus, 1846,  Adolph Muhry, 1856,  Alexander Johnston, 1856,  William Aitkin, 1872,  John C. Peters, 1877,  and Robert W. Felkins, 1888.


These six maps represent a period in medicine when the philosophy for disease began with the notion of climate and topography, an easy to imagine offshoot of the traditional "miasma" theory often ascribed to diseases during the antebellum history period (a period of perfecting medical climate and topography mapping ca. 1825, to the advent and final acceptance of the bacterium and bacterial theory ca. 1890.)   

I produced extensive reviews of each, the links of which are in the paragraphs or brackets below.        

UPPER LEFT:  The earliest of these maps is Heinrich Berghaus’s ‘Planiglob zur Übersicht der geographischen Verbreitung der vornehmsten Krankheiten, denen der Mensch auf der ganzen Erde ausgesetzt ist’,  (Camerini, 2000, translation – ‘Planisphere toward a survey of the geographical distribution of the principal diseases to which man is exposed over the whole world’.  Heinrich Berghaus (😉 was a geographer and atlas illustrator rather than a physician.  He  applied many of the teachings of his important predecessor Friedrich Schnurrer, the first regional disease cartographer (‘Charte Uber die geographische Ausbreitung der Krankheiten’, 1827; at ), and Dr. Carl Friedrich Canstatt, author of ‘Handbuch der medicinischen Klinik’, and producer of the first comprehensive disease taxonomy focused on climate, weather and the natural elements as causes   ( ).   


UPPER MIDDLE:  Adolph Muhry’s map,   [ ]  Muhry’s map is difficult to read and interpret at first.  But par for the time, it is hand watercolored in my version , contained in ‘Die Geographischen Verhaltnisse der Krankheiten oder Grundzuge der Noso-geographie ‘ (The Geographical Relations of Diseases, or Outlines of Noso-Geography).  Muhry continues along the line of the first most famous medical geographers like Schnurrer and Berghaus.  Isolated from Great Britain’s Alexander Keith Johnston to some extent (due to medicopolitical rivalry and egos to some extent), it is interesting to compare the maps of these two.       


UPPER RIGHT:  In terms of fame, Alexander Keith Johnston (😉 stands alongside John Snow (no personal page links) and William Farr (😉 when it comes to advancing the field of medical geography in Great Britain.  A geographer and cartographer, not a physician, he had a way of polarizing himself at times with others in the medical profession.  He produced the most valuable maps on disease published in English for the time ( ), and managed to improve upon the past belief that latitude was important to disease patterns and behaviors, by related disease patterns to his global isotherm charts (his portrait and presentation to the Epidemiological Society in London are at ).   


LOWER LEFT:  Aitkin’s map [  ] is a product of his work on the outbreak of diseases like typhoid due to poor sanitation during the  Crimean War (1853-6) ( ).  Aitkin, along with founder of the modern nursing professional Florence Nightingale, worked to re-gain the .respect of the Royal Armies by improving our understanding of sanitation and disease and implementing new programs that in turn led to the Hygiene and then sanitation movements.  Aitkin referred to himself as a hygiologist, and was an expert in hygiene and medicine.   


LOWER MIDDLE:  John C. Peters Maps [several pages, but begin with  ], are unique in that Peters was one of the last of the highly devoted disease topographers of the late 19th century.  Most curious is the fact that Peters began his career in medicine as a mixed-allopath-homeopathic physician, which was a very common profession during the 1830s and 1840s.  He published the most progressive journal on homeopathy, but when he noticed the homeopaths beginning to behave anti-allopathy and against upgrades or changes in the philosophy to better meet the time, Peters detached himself from this class of physicians, about 1846, and headed in the direction of medical topography.  He produced one of the most comprehensive works on the mapping of disease, especially cholera, in his life time.   


LOWER RIGHT:  Robert Felkin’s maps [  ]  and related book, "On the Geographic Distribution of most Tropical Diseases",  [  ] ,  focused primarily on the most important regionally defined, parasitic or organismal diseases, spread mostly by vector and/or animal host.  Felkins unique attributes included his masonic and strong missionary background, and his philosophy towards African races residing in the less-developed regions of the world (early "scientific racist", see ).   


DISCUSSION.  An important progression to note here is the slow change from regional diseases, mostly defined by symptoms, which are linked mostly to place and climate (Schnurrer) and later climate and topography (Berghaus and Canstatt), to most climate-defined and occasionally regionally or culturally disease zones (Muhry and Johnston), to very specific epidemic patterns and even regionally defined differences in these patterns based upon climate, topography and peoples’ lack of sanitary behavior (Aitkin and Peters).     


Felkins work (1889 – and😉 represents an early example of disease regionalization based upon organism distribution and ecology (worms, flukes, schistosomiasis, fungi, etc.), vectored disease patterns with unidentified causality (malaria, dengue, cholera), and regional foodways diseases (beri beri, scurvy), to name a few.  His claim to fame however was his belief in the magnetic force of the earth as a possible cause for inexplicable diseases, a theory developed and promoted by Robert Lawsen, Esq., Deputy Inspector-General of Hospitals  ( ).   


For another helpful site on medical cartography history, see the Princeton site: 




John Snow’s map is not a world maps, so is not covered here.  For more on Snow, the following sites are recommended:   


Medical Journal Article.     

Howard Brody, Michael Russell Rip, Peter Vinten-Johansen, Nigel Paneth, Stephen Rachman. Map-making and myth-making in Broad Street: the London cholera epidemic, 1854.  THE LANCET • Vol 356 • July 1, 2000    


Why did he have such an impact?    


Edward Tufte’s take.    


UCLA site with one of several versions of his map as jpg.    


Images (so many people have duplicated his work!)    

See on Scoop.itMedical GIS Guide