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Ignác Semmelweis (Hungary)

The stamp

This stamp shows Ignác Semmelweis. It was issued in 1987 in Hungary, and is part of a set showing famous doctors from history. The design is by the Hungarian illustrator János Kass (1927-2010). It had a face value of six forint.

The Doctor

Ignác Phillip Semmelweis was born on 1 July 1818 in Taban near Buda in Hungary, today part of Budapest.

He began studying law at Vienna University but soon changed to medicine. His main interest lay in obstetrics and he began working at the First Vienna Obstetric Clinic. At that time, death from puerperal fever after childbirth was high. Semmelweiss knew that the death rate in his clinic was higher than that in the Second Obstetric Clinic. Oddly, the death rate from puerperal sepsis in those women who gave birth in the streets outside the hospital was lower than that of either Obstetric Clinic. 

He finally realised the answer to this conundrum when his friend Jakob Kolletschka died after cutting his finger during dissection. The doctors and medical students were bringing germs (he called them "cadaverous particles") from the dead bodies into the clinic.

The Second Clinic did not have a dissection room and, as a result, its death rate was lower and there were, of course, no such "cadaverous particles" on the streets on Budapest. 

He made everyone wash their hands and the death rate immediately dropped to zero. Unfortunately the medical profession of the time did not believe him.

He died in a mental institution in 1865, ironically, of sepsis!

The urology connections

Although there is no direct connection with Semmelweis and urology, we think his work on infection is so important that he should be included in the BAUS stamp collection.

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