Skip to main content

Ignác Semmelweis (Austria)

The Stamp

This stamp shows Ignác Semmelweis. It was issued in 1965 in Austria on the 100th anniversary of his death.

The Doctor

Ignác Phillip Semmelweis was born on 1 July 1818 in Taban near Buda in Hungary, today part of Budapest. Semmelweis began studying law at Vienna University but changed to medicine. He became interested in obstetrics and began working at the First Vienna Obstetric Clinic.

At that time, death from puerperal fever after childbirth was high. Semmelweiss knew the death rate in his clinic was higher than that of the Second Obstetric Clinic and, oddly, the lowest infection rate was in women who gave birth in the streets outside the hospitals. 

He finally realised the reason for this 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).

He made everyone wash their hands and the death rate dropped to zero. Unfortunately, the medical profession did not believe him. He died in 1865 in a mental institution - ironicvally, of sepsis!

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.

← Back to Stamp Collection