Childbed Fever

Overview

The life and work of Ignaz Semmelweis is among the most engaging and moving stories in the history of science. Childbed Fever makes the Semmelweis story available to a general audience, while placing his life, and his discovery, in the context of his times. In 1846 Vienna, as what would now be called a head resident of obstetrics, Semmelweis confronted the terrible reality of childbed fever, which killed prodigious numbers of women throughout Europe and America. In May 1847 Semmelweis was struck by the ...

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Overview

The life and work of Ignaz Semmelweis is among the most engaging and moving stories in the history of science. Childbed Fever makes the Semmelweis story available to a general audience, while placing his life, and his discovery, in the context of his times. In 1846 Vienna, as what would now be called a head resident of obstetrics, Semmelweis confronted the terrible reality of childbed fever, which killed prodigious numbers of women throughout Europe and America. In May 1847 Semmelweis was struck by the realization that, in his clinic, these women had probably been infected by the decaying remains of human tissue. He believed that infection occurred because medical personnel did not wash their hands thoroughly after conducting autopsies in the morgue. He immediately began requiring everyone working in his clinic to wash their hands in a chlorine solution. The mortality rate fell to about one percent.

While everyone at the time rejected his account of the cause of the disease because his theory was fundamentally inconsistent with existing medical beliefs about how diseases were transmitted, in time Semmelweis was proven to be correct. His work led to the adoption of a new way of thinking about disease, thus helping to create an entirely new theory—the etiological standpoint—that still dominates medicine today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This delightful, clearly written little book is not so much the biography of a man as the biography of a disease: puerperal fever."

Journal of the American Medical Association

"[T]here is much that is new and stimulating in this short biography of one of the most complex and puzzling of all the famous doctors of the nineteenth century. It is well worth reading, for Semmelweis is a much more interesting study than the cardboard saint of the standard biographies."

—Bulletin for the History of Medicine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412804677
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/1/2005
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 870,264
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

K. Codell Carter is professor of philosophy at Brigham Young University. He is the author of numerous books, including Childbed Fever, The Rise of Causal Concepts of Disease, and A First Course in Logic.

Barbara R. Carter has taught at Cornell University and Brigham Young University. She plays hammered dulcimer with the Salzburg Folk Ensemble and is currently writing a book, Seven Keys to Running a Successful Business into the Ground.

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