Ignaz Semmelweis

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Historical biographies
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Ignaz Semmelweis

July 1, 1818 - August 13 1865

Ignaz Semmelweis was born in Buda, Hungary on July 1st, 1818. He received elementary education at the Catholic Gymnnasium of Buda and completed his schooling at the University of Pest. When he finished this schooling, he returned to Vienna to enroll in the law school because his father wanted him to become a military advocate for the Austrian bureaucracy. However, after leaving Vienna to continue his studies at Pest (1839-1841), Semmelweis returned to Vienna to further his studies into medicine at the Second Vienna Medical School. He graduated Vienna in the year 1844. After this time, Semmelweis spent about fifteen months (October 1844 - February 1846) with a man named Joseph Skoda, learning diagnostic and statistical methods.

His contribution was the start of washing hands and the sanitary procedures. To make this contribution, Semmelweis observed and kept detailed tables of how the women were affected by where and who was at the birth and "poisted that particles of illness from autopsies" were making the mother's ill and if washing the hands of doctors and medical attendents\students might prevent the illness spreading from the previous body. He tested this theory by having a "strict regimen of hand washing" wih a solution of chlorine and lime before examining mothers or delivering babies. The results were the death rate of mothers from childbed fever depleting to the rate of the midwives. The exact date is unknown, since the contribution went on over time, not just suddenly. It was more of an experiment.

After Semmelweis died, his order was overturned by men named Billroth (discovery of strepococci in pus), Pasteur (discovery of strep in the blood of septic women), and Lister (pioneer in surgery of antisepsis). Before this contribution, patients would die mysteriously, unknown to the unsafe and unsanitary hands that examined their conditions, or in the most general case, expecting mothers. After the contribution, years after, the start of sanitation helped saved countless lives and the death level depleted from women who were pregnant down to the midwives level of death. The handwashing however was just the start of the new sanitary environment for patients that we have today. Medical care improved as less illnesses from other patients or autopsies was spread by doctor's and\or medical student's hands as sanitation took over. If this was never made, more would die, even faster if there were epidemics because the illness would spread faster from the hands of that lives were put into before.

Deanna Miller 1BPhotos- :Last, John M. "Ignaz Semmelweis." Encyclopedia of Public Health. Ed. Lester Breslow. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2002. Biography In Context. Web. 12 Sept. 2013.http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/j/e/jel5/micro/art.htmhttp://wesmantoddshaw.hubpages.com/hub/Atheism-Faith-Scientist-and-The-Obstetrician-that-Died-In-an-Insane-Asylum-Dr-Ignaz-SemmelweisInformation:"Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis." Gale Biography in Context. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Biography In Context. Web. 12 Sept. 2013.: "Semmelweis, Ignaz Philipp." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2013. Encyclopedia.com. 13 Sep. 2013 .NA, NA NA, NA. "Ignaz Semmelweis." - RationalWiki. NA, 15 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 Sept. 2013.

Ignaz Semmelweis

In July 1846, Semmelweis became the titular house officer of the First Clinic. As he worked, he noticed that patients that were more around medical attendants and not midwives were dying at an alarming rate and reasoned that the women patients must have been acquiring infections from the attendents and not the midwives. He promptly connected the idea of "cadaveric contamination" with puerperal fever and made a detailed study of the mortality statistics of obstetrical clinics. After making his discovery, he was ridiculed and his discovery was rejected. Angered at the rejection, he wrote many angry letters to the higher authorities of the European medical fields. He was soon forcibly committed to an asylum, where he died of septicemia, possibly after he was severly beaten by the guards of the asylum after showing what they thought was aggressive behavior in Vienna, Austria.

Medicine Today and Reflection

Personal and Professional Background

The Discovery and Contribution


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