fiveThe Tragedy of Polarized Groups

Ignaz Semmelweis (pronounced “Eeg-natz Shemmel-vise”) is a well-known figure in medical history. Some twenty years before the work of Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister, and others substantiated a germ theory of disease, and Lister recommended an antiseptic practice of surgery, Semmelweis discovered how simple hand-washing techniques could dramatically reduce the fatal incidence of childbed fever in new mothers.1

CHILDBED FEVER WAS RAMPANT in Europe in 1844 when Semmelweis graduated from the Vienna Medical School. Although many births still occurred at home, increasing numbers of mothers were going to hospitals to deliver their babies. Hospitals routinely reported deaths due to childbed fever of as many as 25 percent ...

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