Foregoers

Ignác Fülöp Semmelweis

(b. 1818, Buda, d. 1865, Vienna)

Semmelweis received his primary and secondary education Budapest. Initially, he started his university education in the field of law, but soon he became drawn by medical sciences in Vienna. After receiving education in surgical training and learning diagnostic and statistical methods, Semmelweis soon concerned himself with the problem of puerperal fever, the scourge of 19th century European birth clinics. Most women at the time delivered at home, but those who had to take to the hospitals, due to poverty, illegitimacy, or birth complications, suffered a mortality of 25-30 percent. He made the first effective attack on bacteria, and discovered a method for prevention of puerperal fever: Semmelweis insisted that doctors disinfect their hands before childbirth. Though the death rate fell significantly, the Austrian doctors were offended by his suggestions (and the fact that he was a Hungarian in Vienna during the anti-Hapsburg revolution) and sent him back to Budapest.

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