In honor of the death of Aaron Swartz, who was a programmer and activist, Lifehacker reposted one of his articles entitled “Look at Yourself Objectively.” This was an excellent post that discussed Ignaz Semmelweis’ discovery of the efficacy of antiseptic procedures in preventing infection and death at the hospital he worked at. More importantly, it discussed the reason why the doctor’s at his hospital and others felt the need to discredit his findings despite all of the supporting evidence in the form of the severely decreased mortality rate of mothers delivering babies at his hospital.
When I say severely decreased mortality rate I mean it. The mortality rate went from over 18% to to just over 2% within two months. You would think that his findings would have been applauded. That was far from the truth. In fact, rather than admit that they had been killing women through their unsanitary practices, they decided that discrediting him would be preferable. It was not until Louis Pasteur’s confirmation of germ theory and Joseph Lister’s success with hygienic practices during surgery that he was vindicated.
The more in depth discussion of the reaction of the doctors is definitely worth a read. It shed some light on some experiences I have experienced in the past although luckily in nowhere near as serious a situation. It’s impossible for me to forgive the actions of the doctors that persecuted Semmelweis, but understanding why they did what they did, is enlightening to me.