Ignaz semmelweis was a physician who demonstrated that Puerperal Fever “childbed fever” was contagious and could be drastically reduced by enforcing appropriate hand washing by doctors. He made this discovery in 1847 whilst working in a Vienna Hospital in the maternity department. He failed to convince his fellow doctors. Semmelweis realised that the number of cases was much larger in one of his wards than the other ones. After testing hypotheses he found that the number of cases reduced if doctors washed their hands carefully before dealing with a pregnant woman. The risk was increased if the doctors had been in contact with corpses before the pregnant women. The germ theory hadn’t been developed at the time so semmelweiss concluded that some unknown “cadaveric material” caused the childbed fever.
He lectured about his findings to medical communities they didn’t believe him as his observations went against scientific opinion at the time which blamed diseases on an imbalance of basical humours in the body. It was also argued that if a doctor had to wash his hands before treating women they would run out of time and would be too much work. Doctors weren’t happy to admit they had caused so many deaths. Only after Semmelweiss’s death the germ theory of disease had been developed and he is now recognised as pioneer of antiseptic policy.