Ignaz Semmelweis

1818-1865

Ignaz's discovery led to hand washing in medical clinics...

Ignaz Semmelweis - My Favourite Scientist

Facts About Semmelweis

1. Surgeons didn't start to routinely wash their hands before, during, and after working on patients until the late 1800's.

2. Often times surgeons would work on cadavers and go straight over to working on new mothers, without washing their hands in between!

3. Because of this, new mothers started dying from something known as "Puerperal Sepsis" (childbed fever).

4. Ignaz thought that he should implement hand washing within his clinics using chlorinated lime solutions. He started this routine in 1847. This led to deaths by childbed fever to decrease from 12.24% to 2.38%.

5. Towards the end of Ignaz's life, he was sent to an insane asylum as he was exhibiting signs of possible (Alzheimer's), the staff ended up beating him one day and he died because of it.

Contribution to Our World Today

Semmelweis' most important discovery was to have surgeons wash their hands in between patients.


Using antiseptic hand washing has changed the way our hospitals and clinics think today. Now it's routine practice for surgeons and doctors to wash their hands before, during, and after examining their patients.


Life wouldn't be the same without Semmelweis' discovery because more mothers would have died after childbirth and clinics would probably have continued to be a dangerous place for patients, for years to come.