“You call yourselves doctors? I call you murderers! How many
mothers have you killed? Why won’t you listen? You carry death
in your hands! You can’t see it, but it’s there. I have the proof, but
you fools won’t listen.” Dr. Semmelweis was an angry man, but
he wasn’t crazy.
He was a genius. He was called the savior of mothers because
his research saved the lives of thousands of pregnant women
and new mothers.
of pregnant women and new mothers.
Semmelweis was originally from Hungary.
Germany. He was from Hungary.
As a young man, he went to Austria to go to university.
Semmelweis studied law at first, but then he became a medical
He specialized in the treatment of pregnant women. After
graduating from medical school in 1846, he became a doctor. He
worked in the Vienna hospital, one of the most famous and
respected hospitals in Europe.
The Vienna hospital had two clinics that treated pregnant women
and new mothers. Doctors and medical students worked in the
first clinic. Midwives worked in the second clinic.
students worked in the first clinic.
The second clinic, with the midwives, was for poor women who
did not have the money to be treated by doctors. Strangely, it was this second clinic where both rich and poor women wanted to
have their babies. The second clinic was always crowded and
women begged to go there.
Even though the first clinic was more expensive and had many
highly educated doctors, many women died there. At that time,
puerperal fever killed more than 10 percent of pregnant women
and new mothers at the first clinic. At the clinic with midwives,
only one percent of women died from this fever. These were
healthy women. They entered the hospital in good health and a
few days later, they would die.
because of puerperal fever.
No one knew what caused puerperal fever. Most doctors believed
that it was connected to an imbalance in the four humors. The
four humors were four fluids in the body that were connected to
the elements: earth, air, fire and water.
fluids in the body.
For example, one of the humors was blood, which was connected
to the element of air. During the 1800s, doctors believed that
disease was caused by an imbalance of these fluids and
elements. Many doctors believed that problems with blood and
air were connected to puerperal fever. They tried getting better air
in the hospital, but it didn’t help. Other doctors believed that
people with puerperal fever had too much blood in the body.
Some doctors used leeches to suck blood from the sick person to
balance the blood. This also didn’t help. Another treatment for
puerperal fever was drinking mercury. Everyone now knows that
mercury is a poison, but at that time, some doctors believed it
could heal sick people. Of course, none of these treatments