The Ghost Map

Pdf fan
Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Sir Benjamin Hall Character Analysis

Sir Benjamin Hall was the president of the General Board of Health during the 1854 cholera epidemic; he was also a firm believer in the miasma theory of disease, like his predecessor, Edwin Chadwick. Hall was a dedicated, deeply sincere crusader for public health, but because of his devotion to the false theory of miasma, he arguably did more harm than good in his capacity as president. Hall commissioned endless studies into the cholera epidemic, but by asking the wrong questions about cholera, he guaranteed that the Board would receive misleading answers.

Sir Benjamin Hall Quotes in The Ghost Map

The The Ghost Map quotes below are all either spoken by Sir Benjamin Hall or refer to Sir Benjamin Hall. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Illness, Death, and the Unknown Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Riverhead Books edition of The Ghost Map published in 2007.
Chapter 7 Quotes

Hall's list is a kind of straitjacket for an eventual document. You can tell from just scanning the instructions what kind of document they will ultimately produce: a rich and impossibly detailed inventory of the smells of Soho circa 1854.

Related Characters: Sir Benjamin Hall
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:

Following the 1854 cholera epidemic, the General Board of Health, presided over by Sir Benjamin Hall, launched an investigation into the causes of the epidemic. Unfortunately, Hall allowed himself to be blinded by miasma theory, and he unconsciously structured his investigation in such a way that it ended up merely confirming the assumptions of miasma theory, producing little in the way of meaningful information about the epidemic’s sources. In brief, Hall posed all the wrong questions about the epidemic—and therefore, he got few, if any, meaningful answers. The passage is a particularly striking example of the tyranny of theory: instead of maintaining an open mind about the epidemic, Hall allowed his preconceptions about disease to limit his scientific process.


Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Ghost Map quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Get the entire The Ghost Map LitChart as a printable PDF.
The ghost map.pdf.medium

Sir Benjamin Hall Character Timeline in The Ghost Map

The timeline below shows where the character Sir Benjamin Hall appears in The Ghost Map. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5: All Smell is Disease
Illness, Death, and the Unknown Theme Icon
Urban Growth and Planning Theme Icon could reduce further disaster with chloride and bleach. Walking the streets that day was Sir Benjamin Hall , the new president of the Board. (full context)
Illness, Death, and the Unknown Theme Icon
The Scientific Process Theme Icon
Urban Growth and Planning Theme Icon
Benjamin Hall ’s predecessor on the Board was a man named Edwin Chadwick. Chadwick had made a... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Pump Handle
Illness, Death, and the Unknown Theme Icon
The Scientific Process Theme Icon
Urban Growth and Planning Theme Icon
...the disease. However, many people were furious that the pump had been shut down. Meanwhile, Sir Benjamin Hall commissioned an investigation into the Soho neighborhood, attributing the disease to factors such as slaughterhouses... (full context)
The Scientific Process Theme Icon
...investigate the Broad Street cholera outbreak; however, the committee was weakened by the fact that Sir Benjamin Hall refused to share his Board’s findings with anyone else. Hall’s refusal turned out to be... (full context)
Illness, Death, and the Unknown Theme Icon
The Scientific Process Theme Icon
...further attacked the popular miasma theory of the era. And yet, around the same time, Benjamin Hall ’s own Committee issued a report on the epidemic concluding that Snow’s theory was unverifiable... (full context)
Chapter 8: Conclusion
Illness, Death, and the Unknown Theme Icon
The Scientific Process Theme Icon
...theory of cholera grew more popular, but miasma theory continued to dominate, thanks largely to Sir Benjamin Hall ’s authority. However, “the confidence of the miasmatists” took a big hit in 1858, when... (full context)