Childbed Fever: A Scientific Biography of Ignaz Semmelweis

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Greenwood Press, 1994 - Health & Fitness - 127 pages
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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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Childbed Fever
Semmelweiss Discovery
Resorption Fever

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About the author (1994)

K. CODELL CARTER teaches at Brigham Young University./e He has edited Semmelweis's writings and published on other historical figures in the history of medicine.

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

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