Puerperal Fever from Hippocrates to Pasteur

Hunter A. Hammill, Women's Hospital of Texas, Member of the Semmelweis Society of Houston

PowerPoint slides of a presentation given at the Houston History of Medicine Society lecture series.


The death of a mother in childbirth leaving a newborn deserted is a sort of a desecration. This was a frequent event for early physicians. It was felt to be caused by miasmas or punishment from the gods. DaVinci felt the cause was milk stasis, Hippocrates - lochia, Virchow - weather. Then came Semmelweis, Pasteur and Lister. They started a battle with ignorance, hospital administration, budget and academic politics. Ending with the murder of Semmelweis!