We often hear “It’s settled science!” as the argument to shut down any and all discussion about Man-Made Climate Change. Back in the mid-19th century, it shut down the one doctor whose methods were the only methods that could stop the “child-bed fever” that was killing multitudes of pregnant women in hospitals.
Today Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss, of Hungary, is memorialized on coins and postage stamps, with more than a few hospitals named for him. But in his own time, Semmelweiss was reviled, denounced as a charlatan, rejected, refused permission to carry on his work, and finally died in a mental hospital.
This was because Semmelweiss insisted that doctors under his authority wash their hands before tending their patients. At some hospitals, the mortality rate for women giving birth was around 18%. Women who gave birth in the streets had a lower mortality rate than that! But where Semmelweiss was able to get doctors to wash their hands, the mortality rate plummeted to 2%. In fact, in some months, no patients died of child-bed fever.
So Semmelweiss had the results; but that was all he had, and the scientific community ignored them. This 15-minute video by The History Guy on youtube tells the whole story: watch it before it’s taken down.
Thanks to my wife for impressing me with the importance of this history–to say nothing of its applicability to all eras of history, including our own.
“Settled science” can be fatal.