- Found new anaesthetic to replace ether.
- Accidentally came across chloroform.
- Chloroform used in operating theatres and to reduce pain in childbirth.
- Sometimes affected heart, making patients suddenly die.
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- Semmelweis used chloride of lime to control spread of puerpal fever but it was very unpleasant so wasn't widely used.
- Had seen carbolic acid being used in sewage works to keep smell down.
- Tried it in the operating theatre in early 1860s and saw it reduced infection rates.
- Heard about Pasteur's germ theory in 1865, realised germs could be in air or on surgical instruments and bandages so he used carbolic acid on them which produced further improvements.
- However, carbolic acid is unpleasant to get on skin or breathe in so many doctors and nurses didn't use or like it.
- Use of antiseptic conditions reduced death rates from 50% to 15%.
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Why Lister was more important.
- His ideas reduced death rates, whereas early anaesthetics led to a rise in death rates.
- Even though carbolic acid was unpleasant, it didn't cause sudden deaths like chloroform did.
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