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Ignaz Phillip Semmelweis

  • Date Submitted: 07/01/2013 05:50 AM
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IGNAZ PHILIPP SEMMELWEIS

Born in Hungary, on the 1st of July, 1818, Dr. Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis received a doctor’s degree in 1844, when he was 26 years old. When he went to work in a maternity hospital, he noticed that about 20-30% of the women he treated died after childbirth, from a disease called childbed fever.

Shocked by this, Semmelweis tried to think of a hypothesis. Eventually, after much observation, he finally hypothesised that the students that just performed autopsy before treating the patients had transmitted the disease to them. However, the other scientists did not agree, because they thought it was caused by lack of air in the ward, or by overcrowding.

After making his hypothesis, Semmelweis started making all the medical students wash their hands before going into the ward, and between patients, much to the annoyance of his superior, who did not believe that such a silly trick could give any effect to the death rates in the hospital, and neither did the students, although they followed his orders.

Within weeks of Semmelweis ordering the medical students to wash their hands, death rates dropped from 18% to 1%. Unfortunately in 1849, he got fired and left the hospital.



After leaving the hospital, he went to work in a new one in Pent, and in 1950, he lectured publicly about his results. Students did not believe him and mocked his results. They believed that childbed fever was a punishment from God. In addition to that, they argued that even if his findings were correct, washing their hands would be too troublesome, and neither did they want to believe that they were the cause of so many deaths. The student’s   theory slowed down scientific advancements because if they believed him, then they could have found out more about germs and stop killing so many people.

Semmelweis died of a breakdown after trying so hard to convince others about his ideas and discoveries. He was tricked and forced into a medical hospital. Dr. Ignaz...

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