Bestselling Author Steven Johnson to Visit RIT, Oct. 11

Johnson’s The Ghost Map read by RIT’s incoming first-year students

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Bestselling author Steven Johnson will visit Rochester Institute of Technology next month to talk about The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World.

Johnson will give his talk at 4 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 11, in the Gordon Field House and Activities Center. The event is free and open to the public.

The Ghost Map, published in 2006 by Penguin Press, tells the story of the cholera epidemic in 1854 London, which was an overcrowded and squalid city, ripe for disaster. Johnson recounts the race by Dr. John Snow and Rev. Henry Whitehead to trace the spread of disease, saving lives by risking their own, and changing the scientific community’s beliefs about contagions. The Ghost Map also questions the fate of modern cities in a world in which the threat of global pandemic is just around the corner.

Johnson is the author of Everything Bad Is Good for You and Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life, as well as Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software and Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate.

First-year students read Johnson’s historical account as the Institute Common Text, a new summer reading program for RIT’s incoming first-year students. Events throughout the academic year, including contests, movies and the author’s visit to campus, revolve around this shared reading experience.

“The Ghost Map was selected because it is a powerful model of multidisciplinary problem solving,” says Katherine Mayberry, RIT vice president for academic affairs. "There is scarcely a major at RIT that isn’t somehow referenced in the book—engineering, biology, sociology, computing, media, communication—to name a few.”

For more information, contact Elizabeth Mazzolini at

Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized for academic leadership in computing, engineering, imaging technology, and fine and applied arts, in addition to unparalleled support services for students with hearing loss. More than 15,500 full- and part-time students are enrolled in RIT’s 340 career-oriented and professional programs, and its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

For nearly two decades, U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIT among the nation’s leading comprehensive universities. The Princeton Review features RIT in its 2007 Best 361 Colleges rankings and named the university one of America’s “Most Wired Campuses.” RIT is also featured in Barron’s Best Buys in Education.