'Doctors Should Wash Their Hands' Used To Be Controversial

Back in 19th-century Vienna, health official Ignaz Semmelweis came up with the insanely radical, outside-the-box suggestion that doctors should start washing their hands if they handled corpses before they assisted in births. See, nearly 20 percent of births aided by male doctors at the time ended with the baby, the mother, or both dying. In the face of such odds, you'd think "Wash your hands for half a minute. Worst-case scenario, you get clean hands" would be a pretty inoffensive suggestion.

Think again.

Jeno DobyThey refused to listen to this mustache. That's how stubborn they were.

Continue Reading Below


Continue Reading Below


The scientific community in Vienna was appalled that Semmelweis would even suggest that their hands were ever anything but perfect, and fought back with some pretty insane arguments. For example, Charles Meigs countered Semmelweis' modest proposal with the logic that since a gentleman's hands were always clean, a doctor (who is also, by his very nature, a "gentleman") didn't need to wash them. Check and mate, buddy.

Semmelweis was removed from his position, and Viennese doctors continued killin' folks with filthy fingers for 21 more years (during which time 14,518 women and children died from puerperal fever alone), until Louis Pasteur was finally able to convince them germs both existed and did not respect Gentleman Status.

Continue Reading Below


Thereafter, Semmelweis was hailed as a hero and a genius. No wait, he was committed to a mental institution and died of sepsis / syphilis / guard beatings (accounts vary).

Wash your hands. Here's some soap.

If you loved this article and want more content like this, support our site with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.

For more check out Cat Bombs: Maybe The Dumbest Idea Of The Middle Ages? and The Wild West Was Not As Murder-Filled As You Imagine.

Also follow us on Facebook. We're good, clean fun.

To turn on reply notifications, click here


Load Comments

More Articles

6 Very Stupid Questions With Very Smart Answers

No serious person would ask these questions ... but we got serious answers anyway.


5 Underreported Dumb Annoyances Pro Athletes Put Up With

Being at the top of your game can really drag you down.


4 Horrible Biases That Are Baked Into Everybody's Brain

Sometimes our big, dumb brains are just flat-out wrong.


5 'Bad' Movies That Everybody Manages To Get Wrong

Every critic is wrong from time to time.


6 Actors Whose Favorite Roles Aren't What You'd Guess

Your favorite isn't necessarily your best -- sometimes it's your worst.