Home Science EverywhereHistory Cambridge walking tour: 800 Years of Death and Disease

Cambridge walking tour: 800 Years of Death and Disease

by Eva Amsen

I was in Cambridge last week and did a walking tour there (when it wasn’t raining) called 800 Years of Death and Disease in Cambridge. Sounds cheerful, doesn’t it?

This Cambridge walking tour is produced by the Institute of Public Health of the University of Cambridge, as part of the university’s 800th birthday, and is entirely available online through Stride Guides. You can download a podcast or mp3 of the walk to play on your own iPod. If your iPod is suffiently advanced, the different chapters/stops of the walk each have a different photo of the building you’re supposed to be at. There’s also a map you need to print out so you can follow the route.It’s kind of weird walking around with your iPod and map. A friendly old lady already asked me if I needed help finding something when she saw me standing somewhere, map in hand, and looking around.

It’s kind of weird walking around with your iPod and map. A friendly old lady already asked me if I needed help finding something when she saw me standing somewhere, map in hand, and looking around.The walk goes past fifteen locations in Cambridge that are connected to public health. It starts with the oldest building in Cambridge, 11th century “St

The walk goes past fifteen locations in Cambridge that are connected to public health. It starts with the oldest building in Cambridge, 11th century St Bene’t’s Church, because before there were hospitals and such, monasteries were the main form of social security.

St Benets church - Cambridge walking tour

One of the other stops along the route was Magdalene Bridge, which was the dumping site of a medieval open sewer. Yuck.

(Not currently a sewer)

The last stop along the tour, which was mostly chronological, was The Eagle – the pub where Watson and Crick announced the structure of DNA.

The Eagle

I didn’t do the walk in order, because there was a lot of out-of-the-way excessive detouring, but I was able to jump back and forth in the podcast quite easily to find the stops in a different order. I’m not so good at listening to spoken word while doing something else, though, even if that other thing involves looking at buildings. And since the tour mostly involves walking to a building, turning on the podcast, and listening to a story while standing around, I think you’ll get equal value from listening to all the tracks on the website, and you don’t actually have to physically do the walk.

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Sabbi Lall December 6, 2009 - 9:27 PM

ooh, this sounds like a fun tour actually and I’m going to look it up next time I’m there. Medieval open sewer, really, and that’s the reason it’s a stop on the tour? If the Eagle was the first stop people might get stuck there.

Eva Amsen December 6, 2009 - 9:29 PM

It’s actually really close to the first stop, and I wondered why they hadn’t just inserted it in the beginning of the tour, but the chronology plus the presence of beer probably does make it a better _last_ stop. =)

Sabbi Lall December 6, 2009 - 9:45 PM

Did you scribble out some base pairs on the back of a cigarette packet or napkin, I can’t remember what it was supposed to have been or maybe that’s a myth?

Henry Gee December 6, 2009 - 11:16 PM

Eva, thanks for that picture of my namesake store which, for those who don’t know, sells -atonal apples and amplified heat- electrical bits and pieces. Just the once, when I was a grad student, spending far more time playing in bands than studying, I went in there to see if they had a component I needed for my amplifier, but they didn’t. Which was a shame, as I had been looking forward to signing the cheque.

Henry Gee December 6, 2009 - 11:17 PM

Interestingly, though, your picture of the H. Gee storefront shows my current age. That’s truly uncanny.

Alejandro Correa December 6, 2009 - 11:54 PM

_shows my current age_
….but the other way round and looking from second floor H.Gee.
Best post Eva. Very, very nice the photos.

Eva Amsen December 7, 2009 - 12:26 AM

Thanks Alejandro. There are more picture “here”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/easternblot/sets/72157622818511725/

Åsa Karlström December 7, 2009 - 3:48 AM

ah oh ah… I have BEEN there 😀
Sounds fun with the walking tour. I haven’t done that though… although I was a geek when I found the Eagle and the Magdalene bridge (i have a tonne of photos of that one, special…) Glad you like the tour and the city. Good luck in the new year! (I’m quite envious of living there – something with an old dream and all)

Kristi Vogel December 7, 2009 - 3:52 AM

Your post has reminded me that I’ve been terribly remiss and lazy by not posting on the medical history walking tour I did in London, almost a year ago now. I didn’t like the book that described it much, I guess, and so perhaps I’ve been reluctant to post a negative review. Also, my friend and I got distracted by other historical and literary sites almost immediately. And repeatedly.
I made it to The Eagle while I was in Cambridge, but then I got distracted by things like “Grantchester Meadows”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grantchester_Meadows_%28song%29, the Fitz, and the Botanical Gardens. Heh.

Jennifer Rohn December 7, 2009 - 8:15 AM

I was there on Saturday and now feel very shallow that all I did was Christmas shop. I think I let down the geek side…although I *did* see the Brca2 cycle path from the train, replete with ribosomes. Or possibly they were cyclists.

Matt Brown December 7, 2009 - 1:55 PM

Kristi – was it “this book”:http://londonist.com/2008/11/interview_medical_londons_richard_b.php ? I really, really liked it, so would be interested to read your more negative review (assuming it was the same book/walks).

Kristi Vogel December 7, 2009 - 2:08 PM

Matt- No, that was the one I _wanted_, particularly after reading your review, but I couldn’t get it in the US before leaving on my trip. I had _Walking London’s Medical History_ instead. There wasn’t anything terribly wrong with it, but it was rather awkward to use while walking. I would have laid out the pages differently, and left out much of the detail (at least for the actual tour descriptions). In fact I’d planned to write my post as a “redesign”, with sketches and some of the photos my friend took.

Lou Woodley December 7, 2009 - 4:03 PM

Great photos Eva – you managed to make Cambridge look lovely despite the grotty weather!

Alyssa Gilbert December 7, 2009 - 4:17 PM

The title of the walk had me worried, but it sounds interesting, and the pictures are lovely.

Nicolas Fanget December 8, 2009 - 2:10 PM

I’m happy with anything that reminds us of how lucky we are to live now! Three words: anaesthetics, vaccines and antibiotics. It is also a fascinating insight in the history of medicine.
I actually had a book in France about the history of bacterial disease and the effect of disease on history. I think it is “this”:http://www.amazon.fr/bact%C3%A9ries-hommes-Willy-Hansen/dp/270891717X/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1260281110&sr=8-6, but I can’t be sure since my French bibliography is in France. In boxes. Somewhere. Anyone know of an English equivalent?

Richard Wintle December 16, 2009 - 9:33 PM

Ah, missed this rather nice post the first time ’round. I also have been in the Eagle, and seen the famous -shed- building where Watson and Crick worked (allegedly). Lovely place, Cambridge, even if the traffic thereabouts is atrocious. 😉

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