Ignaz Semmelweis

Ignaz Semmelweis (July 1, 1818 - August 13, 1865) was a Hungarian physician (Science Museum, n.d). He demonstrated that puerperal fever was contagious and that its incidence could be reduced by careful hand washing with chlorinated lime solutions in obstetrical clinics (Bellis, 1997). Puerperal fever also known as childbed fever is a bacterial infection resulting from infection of endometrium contracted by women during childbirth or miscarriage (Shiel & Stopler, 2008).
He made this discovery in 1847 while working in the Maternity Department of Vienna General Hospital (Paustian & Roberts, n.d). Semmelweis realized that the number of cases of puerperal fever was larger at one of his wards than at the other (Science Museum, n.d). The risk was especially higher if the doctors had been in contact with puerperal fever corpses before treating the women (Paustian & Roberts, n.d). The same year, his close friend Jakob Kolletschka cut his finger while doing an autopsy. Jakob then died of symptoms similar to those of puerperal fever (Hardy, 2008). That got Semmelweis’s attention. He noticed that doctors moved between the dissection rooms and delivery rooms without washing their hands (Science Museum, n.d). He set a policy that doctors must wash their hands in a chlorine solution before attending to each patient (Science Museum, n.d). After testing a few hypotheses, he found out that the number of cases was drastically reduced if the doctors washed their hands carefully before dealing with pregnant women (Science Museum, n.d).
His ideas were rejected by medical community (Trueman, 2000). Semmelweis spent fourteen years developing his ideas and lobbying for their acceptance. He published a book of his findings in 1861 (Bellis, 1997). Years after his death, his findings were universally accepted after a Louis Pasteur, a French microbiologist developed the germ theory (Trueman, 2000).
Today, Semmelweis is considered a pioneer of antiseptic...