He Quacked Like A Duck

Handwashing has become quite second nature to us, especially these days. Do you know about the man that started it all?

In 1846, Ignaz Semmelweis wondered why so many mothers were dying from postpartum infections. After trial and error, he came up with the idea that the doctors that were performing autopsies were transmitting microscopic parts of the dead bodies to the pregnant women. After the doctors started washing their hands with chlorine solution, the postpartum death count dropped dramatically.

Unfortunately, the idea didn’t stick, and doctors stopped following Semmelweis’ advice. After continuous conflict with colleagues, in 1865, Semmelweis was admitted into a mental hospital. Ironically, he died from an infection. After his death, the simple method of handwashing was finally accepted by the medical community.

This tragic story makes me want to listen to the “quacks” in our society. If we want to improve our lives, we must always be willing to listen and learn from others. This story also makes me want to stick to some of my strong convictions—sometimes it’s the people with the strong convictions that end up changing the world forever.

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