In the mid-19th century, the concept of handwashing was met with surprising resistance. Ignaz Semmelweis, a doctor in Vienna, made a remarkable discovery while trying to solve the mystery behind childbirth fever.
He found that doctors who performed autopsies and then delivered babies without washing their hands contributed to a staggering death rate of one in five healthy women. When Semmelweis introduced hand hygiene to the medical community, the death rate dropped dramatically from 18% to just 1%.
However, his groundbreaking idea faced significant opposition. It took years for the medical establishment to acknowledge the link between handwashing and disease prevention. This resistance to change, encountered even in the face of undeniable evidence, is as shocking as it is perplexing.
Yet, the struggle against established authority and convention is a recurring theme throughout history. From challenging the spontaneous generation of microbes to identifying specific germs causing diseases, scientific breakthroughs have faced resistance before finally gaining acceptance. The journey towards recognizing the life-saving power of handwashing was a lengthy one, ultimately leading to its institutionalization in the 20th century. Even today, as we combat a new challenge, echoes of this resistance persist, as some individuals reject scientific advice, highlighting the timeless struggle between progress and ignorance.
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Top image: Washing hands in Japan. Source: Ladanifer / Adobe Stock.