Childbed Fever: A Scientific Biography of Ignaz Semmelweis

Overview

In the nineteenth century, tens of thousands of women died each year from childbed fever. The Carters describe birthing conditions and medical practices in Vienna during the time when young Semmelweis began to work in a maternity clinic there. He discovered that childbed fever arose because medical personnel did not wash adequately after dissecting corpses before doing vaginal examinations of women in labor. After he required students to disinfect themselves, the mortality rate immediately dropped. However, ...

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Overview

In the nineteenth century, tens of thousands of women died each year from childbed fever. The Carters describe birthing conditions and medical practices in Vienna during the time when young Semmelweis began to work in a maternity clinic there. He discovered that childbed fever arose because medical personnel did not wash adequately after dissecting corpses before doing vaginal examinations of women in labor. After he required students to disinfect themselves, the mortality rate immediately dropped. However, Semmelweis's views were not accepted by the senior physicians who believed the disease was due to a variety of causes. After strident attempts to persuade skeptics, Semmelweis was committed to a Viennese insane asylum where he died at age 42, possibly from beatings by asylum guards. Childbed fever, now called puerperal infection, continues to be a leading cause of maternal mortality, in spite of the best efforts of modern physicians.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
The story of Hungarian obstetrician Semmelweis (1818-65) who proposed a method of reducing the incidence of childbed fever in maternity wards in 1847, was scorned and ridiculed by medical professionals, and died in an insane asylum after a beating by guards the same year an Austrian revived his ideas, which were eventually accepted. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780313291463
  • Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/30/1994
  • Series: Contributions in Medical Studies Series , #39
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 8.86 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

K. CODELL CARTER teaches at Brigham Young University.

BARBARA R. CARTER has taught at Cornell University and Brigham Young University.

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Table of Contents

Vienna's General Hospital

Childbed Fever

Semmelweis's Discovery

Resorption Fever

Mayrhofer's Discovery

Puerperal Infection

Postscript

Selected Bibliography

Index

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