Talk:Ignaz Semmelweis

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Why are we trying to cover up that Semmelweis' involuntary commitment was an attempt to suppress his ideas? --Daniel C. Boyer 18:33 Jan 6, 2003 (UTC)

It seems all the last six or so changes have aimed at giving more credit to Semmelweis and telling more of his story, but if you know something additional about his involuntary confinement, please add it. I had always thought that frustration at bucking the medical establishment was the cause of his breakdown, but please correct me, because it makes a horrible and tragic story even more horrible, tragic, and instructive. Ortolan88
Sounds like a Conspiracy theoryMidgley 14:04, 5 April 2006 (UTC)

Prof. Frederico Di Trocchiio covered Semmelweis quite extensively in his book "Il genio incompresso" see also his book "the big swindle". He writes that Semmelweis was already infected i.e. doomed when he came into psychiatric treatment. Frank A

Did that suggest a toxic psychosis? Midgley 14:04, 5 April 2006 (UTC)

Because it wasn't an attempt to 'cover up' his ideas.

It was to protect society from a man who was clearly insane by the values of that society.

Gentlemen could not be the source of infection as there was no concept of infection.

What was important was that the values of society, the idea that there were correct, proper people who were superior for reasons of birth and station and there were inferiors who did not matter.

That his pursuit of an idea which threatened the entire structure of civilization caused stress which brought a typically fragile because it was aware personality was not something any stabile society of the time could either imagine or tolerate.Mark Lincoln (talk) 04:11, 14 August 2011 (UTC)

@Mark: Could you please rewrite this so that it makes sense. I think you wrote it a bit too quickly. Myrvin (talk) 07:55, 14 August 2011 (UTC)

Compliments aux auteurs[edit]

J'ai traduit l'article en français ; les médecins qui l'ont lu l'ont trouvé très intéressant et n'y ont rien repris. Gustave G. 15:33, 29 April 2006 (UTC)


03-January-2007: The article on "Semmelweis" contains medical information and has been verified, fixing the spelling of "Semmelweis" (twice) and documenting clinical data numbers. In the past 3 months (Oct-Dec 2006), IP-address edits have used the article for sandboxing & vandalism (once undetected for 11 days), which is too tedious for an article on medical information. Due to the medical implications, I am restricting edit-access to registered users, since re-verification has been tedious for several users during the past 3 months. As always, other users can request unprotecting the article to add medical updates. -Wikid77 23:07, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

Only admins can protect pages - it's a technical fact. Requests for page protection are made at Wikipedia:Requests for page protection. In the meantime I will remove the redundant and ineffective protection template. -- zzuuzz (talk) 00:16, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

Earlier discovery of contagion?[edit]

Why is Semmelweis, who is one of my personal heros, given credit for what was known for decades in Britain? Oliver Wendell Homes essay "THE CONTAGIOUSNESS OF PUERPERAL FEVER" (1843) quotes British authorities as expressing a need to protect people from infection well before Semmelweis's unfortunate experience. "A certain number of deaths is caused every year by the contagion of puerperal fever, communicated by the nurses and medical attendants." Farr, in Fifth Annual Report of Registrar-General of England, 1843. AND ". . . boards of health, if such exist, or, without them, the medical institutions of a country, should have the power of coercing, or of inflicting some kind of punishment on those who recklessly go from cases of puerperal fevers to parturient or puerperal females, without using due precaution; and who, having been shown the risk, criminally encounter it, and convey pestilence and death to the persons they are employed to aid in the most interesting and suffering period of female existence." --Copland's Medical Dictionary, Art. Puerperal States and Diseases, 1852, AND "We conceive it unnecessary to go into detail to prove the contagious nature of this disease, as there are few, if any, American practitioners who do not believe in this doctrine."--Dr. Lee, in Additions to Article last cited. It would seem that people who portray Semmelweis as a discoverer are arriving very late on the scene? It seems it is just his attitude that makes him a story. Check out Oliver Wendell Holmes on the same subject, in 1843. - Chris Brown, (- on 17Jan07)

28-March-2007: The work of Semmelweis was around the same time (M.D. 1844), and he is on record in 1847 (not "decades" later). Please note the tragedy was not just his reputation/life, but the actual deaths of hundreds/thousands of young mothers (why notable); however, wars were rampant in those years, so thousands of men died in combat, also at that time. Semmelweis is noted for the extensive clinical trials (beyond Oliver Wendell Holmes) in Austria (proving the concept outside England/USA). The story in many sources does seem overly dramatic; actually, the government of Hungary mandated the hand-washing during his life; however, remember that his friend died of the fever, and when Semmelweis left Austria, the maternity deaths rose, again, from 1% to 35% in the same ward (!). Unnecessary deaths plus people "stuck on stupid" make any story notable: compare Vietnam (troops died every day) plus "what part of violence-begets-violence do you fail to understand?"... The issue of people "stuck on stupid" is rampant, even in the 21st century: someone said it best, "There are none so blind as those who WILL NOT see." So, even though the abrasive attitude of Semmelweis is part of the story, also notable is the vanity of the other doctors who were, within 20 years (1867), proven worldwide, to be self-righteous, murdering fools. (You can bet that many doctors took that sickening revelation to their graves.) On balance, the story is classic tragedy: the abrasive hero fights the grand-standing opponents in Vienna, while thousands die in the shadows, then the hero dies young, and only after his death is he avenged by the truth, which reveals his opponents to the world as murdering fools. Wikid77 16:28, 28 March 2007 (UTC)
Pay attention to detail: By the end of 1847 when the work of Semmelweis began to spread around Europe, James Young Simpson, a prominent British obstetrician, claimed that, in recognizing the danger of contagion, Semmelweis had only discovered what the British had recognized years earlier. But Semmelweis' real discovery was not that childbed fever was contagious (i.e. originated from the victims themselves) but that *any* kind of decaying organic matter could cause the condition. (Carter and Carter, Childbed fever 2005:55-56.) Also, if the British claim were valid, why were they not the first to report astonishing reductions in mortality rates?Frank.hedlund (talk) 12:59, 13 February 2008 (UTC)
Right now the article says, difference between Semmelweis's groundbreaking findings and the British idea suggested by Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1843 that childbed fever was contagious... This line seems like it may have been extracted from the above paragraphs but maybe in too concentrated form. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, Oliver Wendell Holmes was an American. If there was a contemporaneous British school of cleanliness, I think it needs to be better introduced in the article. (fotoguzzi) (talk) 20:21, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
I have a translated copy of Semmelweis' 1861 book, and it makes for fascinating reading in retrospect. Based on his writings alone, he should get plenty of credit for new understanding and ideas, not only for his experiments and trials. For example, he talks clearly not only about decaying matter causing sepsis, but notes a case in which a patient with a knee infection caused cases of childbed fever on the ward. He knew that all septic wounds were suspect. Moreover, he new very well the difference between handwashing with chlorine products and simple soap: he was no fanatic, and says that soap is adequate when examining patients, as a wash BETWEEN examining healthy patients, but that the chlorine treatment is necessary after coming into contact with wounds, cases of sepsis, or autopsy material, before going on to examine healthy patients. He must have discovered some of these things by inferrence, since not all of them come from identifiable trials. But he was dead-on right about much that he said. He just didn't have the theory.

As I read Semmelweis, his theories are very much like the background premise in a George Romero zombie film: if you're penetrated by "cadaveric particles" they turn you into a cadaver! No wonder his colleagues balked, especially as chlorine can be irritating. And nobody likes to be called stupid.

There's also an interested parallel between Semmelweis and Alfred Wegener's theory of continental drift. The evidence can be very clear, but without a good "mechanism" or "story", many people will refuse to "see" it. If it doesn't fit with their worldview, it will be ignored. SBHarris 20:40, 9 June 2010 (UTC)

It seems to me that the opposition of the other doctors may have been based on motives other that simply being "stuck on stupid". If Semelweis was right, doctors could have been accused of causing the deaths in the maternity ward -- and if he was tactless in making the suggestion, they could have thought they were being accused of murder, or at least involuntarily manslaughter. Or was that a legal concept in the Austria of Semelweis's day?

2601:C2:201:4612:4826:B64E:29D4:EDEB (talk) 21:36, 9 March 2019 (UTC)


28-March-2007: I have added a 2nd portrait to the "Semmelweis" article, after the first image was botched by a widespread misspelling of "Semmelweis" as "-weiss" which corrupted the image-file name. I corrected the 19 misspellings of "Semmelweis" (3rd time in 6 months), and re-added the original portrait image of the Austrian postage stamp.

Ignaz Semmelweis (1860 portrait): advised handwashing with a chlorinated-lime solution in 1847.
File:I Semmelweis.jpg
Semmelweis on an old Austrian postage stamp.

The 2 portraits are long-term images in Wikimedia Commons, and are shown here for confirmation that they still exist as named. The name "Semmelweis" was misspelled in the 1911 Britannica with "ss" as "-weiss" and every few months, people have changed the article to use the incorrect "ss" spelling. I need to add a footnote that the spelling is "-weis" to deter future re-spellings. -Wikid77 19:29, 28 March 2007 (UTC) Ə — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:08, 17 November 2011 (UTC)

Significance of Statistics[edit]

I was wondering if anyone would be interested in adding (or my adding)a section on the significance of the use of statistical methods? He was a pioneer in this, and his statistics have been recrunched by modern mathemeticians (google for instance Broemeling, L.D. "Studies in the history of probability and statistics: Semmelweis and childbed fever. A statistical analysis 147 years later." Dept of Biostatistics and Applied Mathematics, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.--User:Palmd001 20:39, 21 April 2007 (UTC)

I believe the claims on his use of statistical methods are an anachronism. In his 1861 publication he applies time series, he groups data and computes averages for the groups. This is application of descriptive statistical methods, perhaps advanced at the time, but it would be presumptious to say that he applied statistical methods in the contemporary meaning of this concept. With the benefit of hindsight we identify obvious trends in the data, but at the time, mortality rates were fluctuating wildly and unexplicably, see Historical mortality rates of puerperal fever for some actual data series. Power.corrupts (talk) 21:41, 10 May 2008 (UTC)

Semmelweis in pop culture[edit]

Semmelweis is noted in one or more Vonnegut books and in Brad Pitt's asylum monologue in "12 Monkeys." Perhaps a section listing these sorts of items? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Stanky (talkcontribs) 15:21, 12 September 2007 (UTC)

Old text moved here[edit]

I have deleted or profoundly changed an introductory text, copied below for easy reference. The text is unreferenced, and there are several inconsistenties with my sources - both problems plagued the article before I revised it. Most of the info may well be entirely correct, I just dont know which parts are, and which are not.

Semmelweis was born July 1, 1818 in Tabán, an old commercial sector of Buda, the fifth child of a prosperous shopkeeper called Adolf of German origin. He received his elementary education at the Catholic Gymnasium of Buda, then completed his schooling at the University of Pest from 1835 to 1837. Semmelweis' father wanted him to become a military advocate in the service of the Austrian bureaucracy, but when Semmelweis travelled to Vienna in the fall of 1837 to enroll in its law school he was instead attracted to medicine. Apparently without parental opposition, he enrolled in the medical school instead.
Semmelweis returned to Pest after his first year and continued his studies at the local university from 1839-1841. However, displeased by the backward conditions at Pest University, he moved to the Second Vienna Medical School in 1841. The latter school combined laboratory and bedside medicine and became one of the most prominent centers of medicine for the next century. In the last two years some of his teachers included Carl von Rokitansky, Josef Skoda and Ferdinand von Hebra. Semmelweis completed his botanically-oriented dissertation early in 1844 and remained in Vienna after graduation to repeat a two-month course in practical midwifery. He received a Magister degree in the subject. He also completed some surgical training and spent almost fifteen months (October 1844 - February 1846) with Skoda learning diagnostic and statistical methods. Afterward he became assistant in the First Obstetrical Clinic of the Vienna General Hospital (German: Wiener Allgemeines Krankenhaus), the university's teaching hospital.
In the mid-19th century it was common for a doctor to move directly from one patient to the next without washing his hands, or to move from performing an autopsy on a diseased body to examining a living person. Semmelweis hypothesized that "particles" introduced into the women caused puerperal fever, and that these particles were spread on the hands of the doctors and students. Semmelweis ordered that hands be washed in a chlorine solution before each examination. Mortality rates among women attended by doctors and medical students quickly dropped from 18.27 to 1.27 percent.[1] In 1861, Semmelweis published a book that described his findings and recommendations. He influenced Joseph Lister but years passed before the importance of disinfection was widely appreciated. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Power.corrupts (talkcontribs) 23:41, 10 May 2008 (UTC)
  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference SemmelBC was invoked but never defined (see the help page).

High resolution images needed[edit]

Professors at the medical faculty, University of Pest, 1863. Semmelweis standing, arms crossed. Standing left is János Diescher, Semmelweis' successor.

I found this low res image on It is it possibly from this book - Gortvay, G.; Zoltán I.: "Semmelweis, His Life and Work" - which I do not have access to.

I think it is a great image and, in general, that the article would benefit from high resolution images, including this one. I have been told that the persons are, from left to right: Standing: János Diescher, János Wagner, Lajos Arányi, Ignác Semmelweis, Gáspár Lippay, Jászef Lenhossék, Jenö Jendrássik, Döme Nedelkó, Ferenc Linzbauer, Dávid Wachtel, Tamás Stockinger. If anybody has access to this book, could they confirm this info, and possibly upload this (and hopefylly other images) in a higher resolution. Power.corrupts (talk) 12:44, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

I located a much better (800x457px) picture at Image: Stirrer (talk) 18:01, 28 May 2018 (UTC)

Cause of death[edit]

I read in other parts that the cause of dead was that, after he was discharged from the asylum, he used an scalpel to make an injury to himself after open a corpse with it.

I think that this must be checked and then change the article in a suitable way.

Kinai2k7 (talk) 20:43, 30 July 2008 (UTC)

Yes, I thought that he died of an infection picked up from a patient but i am not sure of the exact details.Wikisaver62 (talk) 14:17, 25 October 2008 (UTC)
Absolutely no, you confuse it with the fate of Jakob Kolletschka. regards, Power.corrupts (talk) 10:02, 29 October 2008 (UTC)
According to the autopsy, which was performed by Dr. Gustav Scheuthauer at the Allgemeine Krankenhaus, "a wound of the middle finger of the right hand, said to have been sustained during a recent gynecological operation, had become septic, with the infection spreading through the bloodstream and causing, among other manifestations, a large collection of pus to accumulate in the chest." This was very similar to what happened to Kolletschka, as several people noted at the time and afterward. However, some modern pathologists (such as Sherwin Nuland) say that the autopsy records (which still exist) show that it is much more likely that Semmelweis died from the severe beating the asylum guards gave him, and that the pus and infection in his chest were probably caused by a guard stomping heavily on his chest as he lay on the ground. Possibly Scheuthauer was deliberately giving the wrong conclusion in his report; possibly he was pressured to do so by the authorities. Fumblebruschi (talk) 03:33, 11 November 2008 (UTC)
Where the heck did you find this info! I have only seen the autopsy report in Benedek's 1983 references, of which I managed to find German translations in a national library (Benedek is Hungarian). I uploaded the best possible copy of the autopsy report, but I consider it close to illegible. As I remember, Benedek discusses some of the findings, but a transscription is not provided (inthe German translation), and I have not seen transscriptions of the original text (in Latin, I believe) either. I you have some of this, please provide, either to the autopsy report page in Commons, or upload to Wikisource.
I have not read the Sherwin Nuland book. Carter (1983) refers to Nuland and questions, inter alia, how Nuland could possibly write on the subject without any quotiations from the original Aetiology. Supposedly Nuland says, that reading Semmelweis' "laboured German" is "inordinarily difficult". Do you have any comments on the quality of the Nuland reference? Thanks, Power.corrupts (talk) 10:05, 14 November 2008 (UTC)
I read it in Nuland's paper "The Enigma of Semmelweis -- An Interpretation", which was originally published in The Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences (1979) and reprinted in Nuland's book Doctors: the Biography of Medicine (1988). I believe Nuland does not read Hungarian, and apparently his German is not quite up to Semmelweis's often torturous syntax; at least, in another book of his on the subject of puerperal fever, he mentions that in writing the book he relied on Frank B. Murphy's English translation of the Aetiology. However, of course when discussing Semmelweis' death he is not reading Semmelweis, but rather the autopsy reports, written by Scheuthauer. To quote Nuland on his sources:

"The details of Semmelweis's incarceration in the asylum are unknown, though the Hungarian Society for the History of Medicine possesses photocopies of documents relating to his final days and death, presented to them by a physician, Georg Sillo-Seidl, who obtained the papers from the Viennese archives in 1977. The summary of this hospital course is so riddled with inconsistencies, obvious errors, and suspect alterations that it must be considered unreliable...very likely having been compiled after its subject's death, which is Sillo-Seidl's conjecture....its inconsistency with the later statements of Frau Semmelweis adds to the suspicion that it was meant to hide certain events....evidence for what these events were comes from the official autopsy protocol that Sillo-Seidl obtained [from Vienna]; it is supported by the examination, photographs, and x-rays taken of the remains [in 1963], and also by Maria Semmelweis's account of her visit on the day following her husband's commitment. ... Injuries to the left hand, four fingers of the right hand, both arms, and the chest are so suggestive that no other conclusion is tenable. The injury to the left chest in particular leaves an observer with the conclusion that [Semmelweis] was stomped as he lay on the ground. It consists of an abscess, visible on first inspecting the corpse as "discolored green skin", under which bulged "a half-sphere swelling"....On cutting into the body, the large bulging protuberance was found to be caused by an extensive collection of "yellow-green pus...mixed with stinking gases" located between the chest muscles and the rib cage, encompassing the entire area from the first to the sixth ribs in the front, with an opening where the pressure of the abscess had caused it to perforate into the thoracic cavity, producing a connecting abscess "the size of a man's fist", and reaching as far as the pericardium....[Nuland showed the autopsy results to two pathologists, not telling them the name or circumstances of the patient, or of his theory.] Independently, both concurred that such findings could rsult only from the trauma of an assault."

Fumblebruschi (talk) 03:45, 17 November 2008 (UTC)

Semmelweis' ethnicity[edit]

Based on this 2004 exchange between Richard Horton (editor of the Lancet) and Sherwin Nuland (Yale School of Medicine professor and author of The Doctors' Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis), it would seem that there is some academic disagreement over Semmelweis' ethnicity. (Nuland believes him to have been of solely German ancestry, while Horton believes that he may have been of Jewish extraction, and that this may have contributed to his treatment at the hands of the European medical establishment.) This exchange in the pages of the New York Review of Books is clearly a reliable source, but I don't know enough about the subject to determine if either Nuland or Horton represents a standard view among historians of medicine. (Both are clearly pedigreed and respected scholars.)

Would it be appropriate to add a cited sentence to the "Parents and early life" section saying something like this:

The ethnicity of Semmelweis' parents is a subject of scholarly dispute; Semmelweis' forebears were baptized as Roman Catholics as far back as the 17th century, but scholars such as Richard Horton suggest that Semmelweis' family may have been Jewish "or retained a strong Jewish cultural identity".

Or is that too leading towards the "Jewish Semmelweis" side of the argument?

(For what it's worth, I've purchased Horton's NYRoB review, which Nuland was contesting in the subsequent exchange. In that review, Horton says baldly, "Semmelweis was the fourth son of a successful Jewish grocer." His suggestion of Semmelweis' Jewish roots in the later exchange is much more guarded.) —Josiah Rowe (talkcontribs) 03:05, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

Personally, I believe it is pure conjecture. The message in what I have read is that Semmelweis simply ran foul of politics, as Hungarian born, he became a victim of Austrian xenophobia at a time when the Austrian empire was falling apart, and he may not have had so-called "social skills". Add to this, an extremely bitter academic confict. His parents could well be Jewish, just from their names, but I haven't seen it mentioned elsewhere. Carl Mayrhofer was also kicked out, no mention of anti-Jewish sentiment there either. I have just managed to digitalize Semmelweis' open letters (terrible Gothic print), I will upload them to the German Wikisource, when proofed (and when I have time, you know) - lots of bitterness, anger, personal attacks (in wikispeak: incivility) , no mention of ethnic conflict. If you can find factual and verified info on ethnicity, add it to the article, I would say in a footnote, because I consider it marginal (but valuable) info. I would also be careful not to spark some controversy over who "owns" him: was he Hungarian, Austrian, German, Austro-Hungarian?, and now Jewish? Power.corrupts (talk) 09:14, 19 February 2009 (UTC)
I've added one sentence to the main text of the article, with more details accompanying the citation. Feel free to edit as you see fit. The facts to seem to be on Nuland's side, but Horton is a notable scholar so I think it's fair that his view be represented. I decided not to go into the rather tenuous support Horton gives for his view, which does seem to be conjecture: all he can offer in support of the idea that Semmelweis was Jewish is a second-hand suspicion by another medical historian:

In Hal Helman's study of Semmelweis, for example, he quotes medical historian Constance Putnam, who "suspects that [Semmelweis's] forebears may well have been Jewish."

If anyone wants to dig up the Helman and Putnam sources, to see if they're based on anything solid, please do so.
I hope that the wording is neutral enough not to trigger the "ownership" dispute you suggest — I hope that as long as we stay with the facts, insofar as they are known, we can avoid any ethnic squabbles. —Josiah Rowe (talkcontribs) 05:43, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
In this case 'neutral wording' is not enough. A baseless and unsupported 'suspicion' suddenly becomes equal weight to a well documented argument. Is it now a 'scolarly dispute' between a 'suspicion' and documeted facts? Just because it claims that he was Jewis? Even if there is not one fact supporting it? Even if all the facts are supporting the opposite? PLEASE! Recognise that you are doing EXACTLY what Semmelweis's medical opposition was doing! You are giving credit to a theory that is based purely on authority rather than accepting the documented facts. This is the story of his life and now, it still hounts him! This is an ethical isse, not 'ownership'. Please remove all jewish references to his ethnicity. Bill. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:13, 18 June 2009 (UTC)

Agreed with the above poster. And also, many Jewish surnames were simply adopted from German or Slavic languages meaning that, just because someone has a "Jewish" sounding surname, it does not in any way mean they are Jewish or of Jewish descent. You don't see anyone claiming that Einstein may have secretly been an ethnic German just because he had a German sounding surname. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2600:1700:69C1:2A00:F0F1:4409:498F:D81E (talk) 03:03, 16 June 2018 (UTC)

I have found two articles saying his family was Jewish: Here and Here. So, I am confused as to whether or not to add it to his biography. It would not be bad for him to be Jewish, and Jews instilled handwashing as a cultural custom for thousands of years. Jeffgr9 (talk) 10:14, 20 March 2020 (UTC)

Pasteur and Semmelweis[edit]

The following text has been fact-marked: His unpalatable observational evidence only became palatable when seemingly-unrelated work by Louis Pasteur in Paris some more than twenty years later suddenly offered a theoretical explanation for Semmelweis' observations—the germ theory of disease.[citation needed] Well, I can quote this in a Danish textbook on reasearch methods, precisely where I read it in the books I have on Semmelweis, I don't recall, and cannot easily dig up, perhaps I can give it a serious try later. Pasteur's findings were extremly important, in particular the germ theory, as the cadaverous particle idea fits right in, but it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when Semmelweis ideas becames accepted, if a single date or year exist . As stated in the article German doctors were quite willing to experiment with chlorine washings, though they would not publicly admit to supporting Semmelweis' views. Carl Mayrhofer identified the culprits as vibrions in the late 1860s, but was kicked out of Wienna for that. Power.corrupts (talk) 15:30, 11 November 2009 (UTC)

You know what: that tag could have been clearer. The problem isn't really with the fact itself, it's with the characterization as "unpalatable" and subsequent change to "palatable". These are subjective terms, and the quoted text didn't specify who considered his theories "unpalatable", or when they changed their mind. A little rephrasing ought to work out just fine; maybe state "Only belatedly did his observational evidence gain wide acceptance; more than twenty years later, Louis Pasteur's work offered..."? TheFeds 06:34, 13 November 2009 (UTC)

File:Semmelweis stamp Austria 1965.jpg listed for deletion[edit]

An image or media file that you uploaded or altered, File:Semmelweis stamp Austria 1965.jpg, has been listed at Wikipedia:Files for deletion. Please see the discussion to see why this is (you may have to search for the title of the image to find its entry), if you are interested in it not being deleted. Thank you.

There is uncertainty over the copyright status of this stamp. It appears that interpretation of Austrian law is too liberal to include stamps as official works: if they have been published as part of a law or official decree or edict, or if they have been released as an official announcement or for public information. Dont know if somebody can dig up "a law or official decree or edict" , meanwhile I copy (in hidden text) the template info below, in order to retain it for future ease of recreation Power.corrupts (talk) 11:13, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

Pathological Anatomy graph[edit]

There's a striking graph under the "Response by the Medical Community" section that looks like it communicates something significant:

Now, I can read graphs, and I can tell that for some reason, Wien had this "pathological anatomy" thing happen (start?) that caused rates to go up, while Dublin didn't. Later, handwashing was introduced and the rates fell hugely and instantly at Wien, but Dublin didn't change much. So it seems like handwashing fixed this "pathological anatomy" problem that Wien had, but Dublin didn't - so it was only really needed at Wien. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any reference to that graph in the text, and "pathological anatomy" links to "Anatomical Pathology" which is wholly unhelpful in trying to discern what exactly was going on at Wien during that time. Knowing what "pathological anatomy" is, and how handwashing fixed it, and why Dublin wasn't really affected by either - basically, some context - is important for this graph to mean anything.

Could this graph be moved, or explained better, or referenced in the text, so that what it actually means is more clear? I don't know enough about any of it to know what to do with it - As is, I was interested by the graph, but utterly befuddled as to what it actually means beyond what I outlined above. I searched for the terms "pathological anatomy", "Dublin," and "Wien" in the article, and came up with nothing useful. --The Human Spellchecker (talk) 23:56, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

No mention of the Semmelweis Award. Other than the touchy subject of Duesberg getting the award in 2008, is there any reason it isn't in his biography? (talk) 13:12, 13 December 2010 (UTC)

The graph - even before hand washing the line seems to seasonally drop to near 0%. Was this due to students and doctors being on vacation, etc. ? Unattended "street births" were also the safest and also unattended by students or doctors ( have the kid, dump it off at the hospital and RUN). 2601:181:8301:4510:F89B:7999:F8DE:67FD (talk) 15:10, 27 May 2018 (UTC)

Why isn't the Semmelweis Award mentioned? 2601:181:8301:4510:F89B:7999:F8DE:67FD (talk) 15:10, 27 May 2018 (UTC)

I looked up the Dublin hospital. The Dublin had few if any doctors. Midwives and a man-midwife seem to have run the show. The Wien was a teaching hospital. 2601:181:8301:4510:F89B:7999:F8DE:67FD (talk) 15:30, 27 May 2018 (UTC)

Society and Awards[edit]

Semmelweis Society International --

Also --  — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:14, 16 September 2011 (UTC) 

Hungarian or austrian?[edit]

Semmelweis' given name and family name are german and when he was born much of Budapest's population was ethnically german/austrian. So is he really hungarian? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Rheinguld (talkcontribs) 15:31, 28 September 2012 (UTC)

He was born in Budapest to Hungarian parents, and the biography by the Semmelweis Society International describes him as Hungarian. He was not German and his name is not pronounced the German way. Apuldram (talk) 18:19, 28 September 2012 (UTC)


The authoritative Semmelweis Society International biography cited in the article clearly describes him as a Hungarian physician. His father was also born in Hungary. However, his ancestors were of German origin. As a compromise, I have added that information to the lead section. Apuldram (talk) 16:17, 28 May 2013 (UTC)

He was definitely born in the Austrian Empire. His father was also Austrian. See -- This is also correctly stated in a later paragraph of this article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Dapeda (talkcontribs) 08:47, 1 September 2016 (UTC)
His father was not Austrian, as he was also not. You link anyway does not support your claim, his father was born in Hungary, and not any later paragraph in the article is supporting your statement. Moreover dual Austrian-Hungarian citizenship never existed, and always the Hungary was a separate country with it's own citizenship, regardless of the affairs with the Austrian Empire. The lead is not referring to the birthplace, but the ethnic origin, by the way, Austrian ethnicity did not even exist that time.(KIENGIR (talk) 22:19, 1 September 2016 (UTC))
compare to [[1]]. At the time of Semmelweis' birth Hungary was an integral part of the Austrian Empire, not a separate entity -- also see [wp entry on Hungary at that time]. From 1848 to 1867 the situation was quite a turmoil that ended with a settlement in 1867, constituting Austria-Hungary. I would say (but don't know) that there was an Austrian ethnicity from the first mention of Ostarrichi in 996, but undoubtedly after 1273. Definitely at Semmelweis' d.o.b.
Your statement about the ethnicities of Semmelweis' family is correct though.
Indeed, my claim was unjustified, it must have been based on some other article.
I will not revert the article again and don't want to start (or continue) an edit war.
Although I'm Austrian I recognize your competence in the area. Nonetheless, please read the linked sections and if possibly re-evaluate your position on that. I will definitely eagerly read your opinion. Dapeda (talk) 09:44, 2 September 2016 (UTC)
@Dapeda:Lieber Schwager,
you did not read carefully the article you are referring of (Austrian Empire) -> "This was especially demonstrated by the status of the Kingdom of Hungary, a country which had always been considered a separate realm—a status that was affirmed by Article X, which was added to Hungary's constitution in 1790 during the phase of the composite monarchy and described the state as a Regnum Independens." Also the section of the Hungary article does not contain your claim. "mention of Ostarrichi" -> Ein Reich von Ost, no doubt that this name and reference existed, but better referring to a region or a country, but it's creators and inhabitans has always been referred as Germans by also all the foreign sources - since the ethnic German being of Habsburgs, Austrians cannot be debated. Only after WWII an Austrian national identity was developed, so in a modern-way we can speak about Austrian ethnicity, although it's German root cannot be debated - however this emotional rejection appears many times among Austrians because of Germany's evaluation in the war, and they make huge effort to separate themeselves in any way from the Germans - you don't want to see what kind of fuss was in the Mozart article, finally they dropped any possibility to even mention in any way "German", although I think the "ethnic German" would be totally satisfiable, but I did not intervene on that debate - considering the contemporary birthplace was not under Habsburg/Austrian status quo.
I appreciate your kind collaboration, this is how Wikipedia should work all the time. Regarding the ethnicity - this is what "German extraction" refers I am afraid we are unable to make any change, since the parents i.e. did not immigrate from i.e. the Archduchy of Austria, also if this case would be true, we may have only mentioned where from they stem, but this is still not an ethnicity. Danke für dein Verständnis! Mit freundlichen grüßen,(KIENGIR (talk) 00:37, 3 September 2016 (UTC))
However, you fail to acknowledge in claims about his 'hungarian' nationality that at the time of the birth no such nationality existed. Under the Austrian Empire's general civil code ( Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch), citizenship was defined at the city or municpal level. Therefore he should be refered to as a citizen of Buda in the Kingdom of Hungary within the Austrian Empire and not as a Hungarian (a country which like Austria, did not exist at the time. Tempsperdue (talk) 06:57, 21 November 2020 (UTC)
Sorry, you are mixing the Austrian Empire's legal affairs with the separate Hungary's, which had it's own constituion and legal system, and yes, Hungary existed at the time as a country.(KIENGIR (talk) 04:19, 23 November 2020 (UTC))
True again. Austrians and Germans do have problems. I think they are much older than WW2 ("Scheiß-Preuß") and the smaller party is as usual the louder and more aggressive one. btw: "Schwager" is "son in law" :-) - thx for the good discussion Dapeda (talk) 17:32, 7 September 2016 (UTC)

I just stumbled across this great discussion and must 'add my mustard' (meinen Senf dazugeben) in support of KIENGIR..."Schwager" is brother-in-law. Son-in-law is "Schwiegersohn". Just to complete the lesson, the feminine versions are "Schwägerin" and "Schwiegertochter" respectively. Dori1951 (talk) 11:00, 12 April 2020 (UTC)

As you know, we Hungarians as a remembrance of the dualism, we call the Austrians as "sógor" = "Schwager". :) Thx, indeed. (KIENGIR (talk) 21:05, 7 September 2016 (UTC))

Is Jakob Kolletschka a good friend or a son?[edit]

The article references Jakob Kolletschka in two roles: one as a good friend and and one as a son. Which is it? (talk) 18:04, 22 January 2014 (UTC)

Jakob Kolletschka (1803-1847), professor of forensic medicine at Vienna, could be a good friend, but not "his son Jakob Kolletschka, who died at childbirth". Volpe is clearly either wrong or misquoted. Apuldram (talk) 18:58, 22 January 2014 (UTC)
I have now removed the offending paragraph, which was added by on 14 March 2013. The paragraph was based on original research in a book by Michael Volpe. Part of the paragraph may be restored if a Wikipedia editor knows of a positive review of the book by The Lancet or other reputable authority. However, the suggestion that Jakob Kolletschka was Semmelweis's son is clearly rubbish, and should not be restored.
Thanks to for spotting the mistake. Apuldram (talk) 09:03, 23 January 2014 (UTC)

Linking to hand washing more than once[edit]

I had linked to the article on hand washing (which I think is a very crucial link) more than once. Someone else removed all hyperlinks, so that it's only hyperlinked once. I would like to point to this ongoing debate about linking: My conclusion is that there are many people who favor linking on more than one occasion (for long articles). In any case, one is already now allowed to link in to the lead, and at the first appearance in the main article and in the caption, see here: "Generally, a link should appear only once in an article, but if helpful for readers, links may be repeated in infoboxes, tables, image captions, footnotes, hatnotes, and at the first occurrence after the lead.". Therefore, I am adding the link again in the lead and in a caption and at the very end of the article, as it's a long article. This is not over-linking. - OK, I just saw that one link was already in the lead, so no need to link a second time in the lead, that's fine. EvM-Susana (talk) 09:17, 20 April 2015 (UTC)


An edit to the lead has been reverted that suggested that S did not die as a result of being beaten by guards. Actually, the body text says " from a gangrenous wound, possibly caused by the beating." The lead's assertion that "he died at age 47 after being beaten by the guards", does not say 'possibly'. I cannot access the relevant pages of the reference in the body text, but, on page vii [2], the book does say "after being severely beaten by the asylum guards". I have access to another text, in English and not cited here[3], that discusses his death in some detail. It does not mention a beating at all, but gives various accounts of how S got the wound that resulted in Pyaemia. It quotes the autopsy report - which does not mention "extensive internal injuries" - as saying,

The meninges showed signs of chronic hyperaemia, besides atrophy of the brain and chronic hydrocephalic symptoms, there were signs of acute inflammation in the brain and spinal marrow. The middle finger of the right hand was necrotic, metastatic abscesses were found in the limbs and in the left kidney ; consequently the progress of pyaemia resulted in sudden death

The lead assertion should be toned down - at least in line with the body text, and I think there is much more to say about how he met his end. Myrvin (talk) 07:56, 8 June 2015 (UTC)

In the light of the above, I have amended the body text to remove extensive internal injuries. My amendment may be reverted if additional reliable information is found. Who did the autopsy? If it was done by his opponents, it may be suspect. Apuldram (talk) 11:28, 8 June 2015 (UTC)

Need help auditing my work.[edit]

Dear Wk³⁶ Editor,

A while back, i edited this article to include the "learned helplessness" rationale under the username "adamtheclayman". i intercalated the "learned helplessness" rationale, after a long study of Semmelweis' life, and a long study of Seligman's work, within the article. But on reviewing the article today, it initially appears as if i "broke into" a quote from a cited Authorial Source. Would You please help me trace this one down, and let me know if i did anything wrong in the original edit? Inserting this causal rationale into another Author's Work would be super-unethical, and i'd like to know what i did to get this mechanism implant.ed. i thought i just added it as a "It may have been..." outside of any other Authorial Voice, within the calm⁴unity Wk³⁶ voice, and in a section that was, in its nature, conditional and speculative, as a critical inclusion and support for an exhaustive root cause analysis of the Semmelweis case. With all sincerity, i believe it's an important inclusion, but if i did so by breaking an Original Author's Work, i and You must know, and the sousveillance, surveillance policies improved or a point-of-weakness logged: "uncorrected within-quote intercalations by non-primary quote adders".

This was an important point for me to add on Semmelweis, but not important enuf to break Wikipedia, and this would have been a very serious breakage to calm⁴unity trust, because it means We have to keep checking and rechecking the integrity of direct quotes, or apply a lock or mandatory review on any edits applied to the linear text of direct quote segments.. perhaps with an exception case for a volunteer checking the source text and expanding out a previously entered "selection bias" ellipses.

æ — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:36, 28 September 2015 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just added archive links to one external link on Ignaz Semmelweis. Please take a moment to review my edit. You may add {{cbignore}} after the link to keep me from modifying it, if I keep adding bad data, but formatting bugs should be reported instead. Alternatively, you can add {{nobots|deny=InternetArchiveBot}} to keep me off the page altogether, but should be used as a last resort. I made the following changes:

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New book[edit]

Genius Belabored: Childbed Fever and the Tragic Life of Ignaz Semmelweis by Theodore G. Obenchain, 2016, University of Alabama Press Jodi.a.schneider (talk) 19:03, 10 October 2016 (UTC)

 Done added to Literature section. Apuldram (talk) 20:58, 10 October 2016 (UTC)

Radical factual revision[edit]

I am seeing an unusual amount of factual revision here. Are we sure we have good sources, and our sources match our text?  Lingzhi ♦ (talk) 03:35, 23 March 2017 (UTC)

Well, Lingzhi ♦ (talk), I think we should involve Wikiproject Medicine to properly decide this.(KIENGIR (talk) 10:05, 23 March 2017 (UTC))
I assume you are referring to the recent edits by @CarpeDictum20:? I noticed those as well. Hopefully that editor can come explain what they are doing. It seems like they are making a subtle distinction in the wording in many cases, but in other cases they might be making unsourced claims. --Krelnik (talk) 13:09, 23 March 2017 (UTC)
I have undone the edit, pending resolution here. Apuldram (talk) 12:19, 24 March 2017 (UTC)

This is CarpeDictum20. I've never used the talk page, hope I'm putting this in the right place. Semmelweis believed that decaying matter was the absolute cause of childbed fever and specifically argued against the idea there was a contagion involved. That's the subject of the frequently referenced paper on the differences with British physicians. Handwashing was effective but not for any of the reasons he proposed. The article as I found it implies he was ahead of his time, his theories were correct, and he was denounced because he was so advanced. He was denounced because he was wrong. — Preceding unsigned comment added by CarpeDictum20 (talkcontribs) 03:40, 11 April 2017 (UTC)

@CarpeDictum20: Yes, this is the correct place for you to express your criticism of the article.
Your edit was reverted because it made four controversial unsourced statements that contradicted sourced statements in the text.
You need to find support for your statements in verifiable reliable sources.
Please sign your contributions to talk pages with four tildes (~~~~). Welcome to Wikipedia. Apuldram (talk) 11:17, 11 April 2017 (UTC)

Adding to this - the section on his commitment is incredibly opinionated and seems to assert that the opinions of his peers were factually accurate instead of just that, opinions. I don’t think that words like “desperate” should be used outside of quotation marks. When it’s already disputed whether his involuntary commitment was for purely political motives or due to an actual degenerative disease, etc. it’s unfair to present thoughts like these as factually correct. With hindsight, it could easily be argued that anyone in a position where they were not being listened to as mothers and children died would also act in such a fashion and is unfair and biased to characterise him in this way under the particular set of circumstances he found himself. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Bobbarker90 (talkcontribs) 13:12, 1 July 2019 (UTC)

Reformat refs[edit]

Hey. As the subject header says, I would like to completely reformat the ref using sfn (see Bengal famine of 1943) ... much easier to work with alphabetical order etc... then the long-term goal (several months down the road) is FAC. If anyone objects, speak now or forever hold your peace. Will wait at least one week or maybe two. Lingzhi ♦ (talk) 15:11, 31 December 2017 (UTC)

  • PS Now I am actually looking at the references and notes, they seem really mixed up, as if they were done by several people (which is probably the case). This is a somewhat challenging task. Lingzhi ♦ (talk) 03:17, 6 January 2018 (UTC)
    • refs standardized Lingzhi ♦ (talk) 15:15, 6 January 2018 (UTC)

Verify assertions, top-to-bottom check, long-term goal FAC[edit]

  • OK the refs look more legible/standardized now. They may not be perfect and I certainly don't vouch for their content, but they are very much better... The long-term goal is FAC but that is several months down the road. Lingzhi ♦ (talk) 15:18, 6 January 2018 (UTC)

Hungarian / German / Austrian[edit]

Calling Semmelweis Hungarian in the first paragraph is misleading for todays readers. According to Wikipedias own information, Semmelweis was of Germany ancestry with an ethnic German father (Source: All of Semmelweis' original quotes and writings are German, including the famous Open Letter ("Offener Brief") here:

The population of Semmelweis' birthtown Buda was "basically everything German except 1.100 Serbs and a few hundred Magyars." (Source:

Therefore I suggest changing the ethnicity to Hungarian-German. (talk) 14:20, 25 October 2019 (UTC)Mr. Im currently writing an article on Semmelweis

Excuse me, there is no misleading information in the lead, because here always the nationality is presented at the first place, not ethnicity (however in some cases it is identical with the former etc.). His nationality was Hungarian.(KIENGIR (talk) 18:27, 25 October 2019 (UTC))

The ignoring of womens' contributions to science & medicine continues ...[edit]

Semmelweis observed a decreased mortality rate in puerperal fever where pregnancies were attended to by nurses/midwives outside of the doctor based hospital system, credit for the introduction of hand washing to western health practices belongs to the nurses (women) who knew what to do to decrease deaths and washed their hands to the mockery of most of the (male) medical profession. It would have originally been known during the years of the crusades when Arabic medicine (far more advanced than western) regularly utilised handwashing … so giving the credit to one person, is incorrect and offensive to those women who struggled to be heard. What happened to 'on the shoulders of giants' - everything has a context and to celebrate one person is simple, patriarchal and how women's history became lost in the first place. I also have personal experience of doctor's ignoring nurses rules about cross infection in the 1980's when they would visit MRSA patients without washing their hands before and after visiting other patients. The system has changed with the increased numbers of women doctors and male nurses but ignoring the historical contribution of women health professionals perpetuates a myth and a stereotype from which we need to continually move away. Its complex and not that simple, but thank you Semmelweis for observing women's practices and then trying to introduce it to your colleagues who then treated you like they treated intelligent women, with mockery. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:49, 19 March 2020 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 21 March 2020[edit] Jews have been practicing hand washing for 6,000 years (talk) 15:04, 21 March 2020 (UTC)

Not done. It's not clear what changes you want to make. –Deacon Vorbis (carbon • videos) 15:17, 21 March 2020 (UTC)

Austro-Hungarian, not Austrian-Hungarian[edit]

Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis[A] (German: [ɪˈɡnaːts ˈzɛml̩vaɪs]; Hungarian: Semmelweis Ignác Fülöp; 1 July 1818 – 13 August 1865) was an Austrian-Hungarian[2][3] physician and scientist, now known as an early pioneer of antiseptic procedures. It should be changed to: Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis[A] (German: [ɪˈɡnaːts ˈzɛml̩vaɪs]; Hungarian: Semmelweis Ignác Fülöp; 1 July 1818 – 13 August 1865) was an Austro-Hungarian[2][3] physician and scientist, now known as an early pioneer of antiseptic procedures. NoobMaster69420666 (talk) 23:16, 21 March 2020 (UTC)

Comment: the current article version is just "... a Hungarian physician...", reflecting the existing single source,, which says: "was a Hungarian physician". In the two sources previously used, Encyclopædia Britannica says: "(born July 1, 1818, Buda, Hungary, Austrian Empire [now Budapest, Hungary]... German Hungarian physician... " while just says: "(b. Buda, Hungary..." with no nationality ascribed. From 1804 the Kingdom of Hungary was part of Francis II's Austrian Empire. Although Buda was still largely German in the early 19th century, and he was of German ancestry, it might be simpler to describe him as Hungarian? Martinevans123 (talk) 10:54, 22 March 2020 (UTC)
 Not done for now: please establish a consensus for this alteration before using the {{edit semi-protected}} template. Changing nationalities requires a consensus based on reliable sources. As {{u|Martinevans123|| notes, the sources on this are mixed and discussion is necessary before a change is made. Eggishorn (talk) (contrib) 17:19, 23 March 2020 (UTC)
The whole attempt was failed at the beginnig, first beucase sources tell otherwise, on the other hand it is about nationality/citizenship in the lead, not ethnicity. Hungary was a crownland of the Austrian Empire, but unlike other crownlands, it was separate country. His ethnic background is described in the core, WP policies does not even support it necessarily in the lead.(KIENGIR (talk) 23:20, 23 March 2020 (UTC))

IP edit[edit]

Dear IP,

please check the Austrian Empire and Kingdom of Hungary (1526–1867) articles. Hungary has been a separate country, Regnum Independens, with is own citizenship, related on to the Austrian empire by the Monarch from the Habsburg House. The source you have given to your false claim is ignorable, since it describes Austria-Hungary before it has been created (1867), so it is failed from the beginning. Discuss here first from now on...(KIENGIR (talk) 18:41, 26 March 2020 (UTC))

This is incorrect. Citizenship as a concept is fairly young. The Kingdom of Hungary was governed by the Habsburg family and despite being allowed to its own government it was under the jurisdiction of the Austrian Empire. A seperate citizenship for the Kingdom of Hungary was established as a concession to Hungarians as part of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. There is a reason why this was part of the deal. It didn't exist before. It is unclear if and what citizenship Semmelweis specifically has adopted. If there is any evidence that he chose to adopt the citizenship of the Kingdom of Hungary after that had been established in 1867 a source needs to be added for that. Same with your claims about Eisenstadt any many other edits you have made they are not based on facts and evidence but nationalistic talkinpoints. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:48, 26 March 2020 (UTC)

No, the Imperial Diet had no jurisdiction over Hungary, Hungary was administered by it's on Diet and ruled by their own constituion. Again, there has been never a common citzenship, or Austrian citizenship ever introduced in Hungary, you follow a common falsity and mistake that are commited a long time ago by those who does not really are professional in the internal affairs of Austria or Hungary. Franz Liszt has been also a Hungarian citizen solely and also referred to it openly his papers also declared being the subject of Hungary, etc. Semmelwess was a Hungarian subject by birth, and there is not any evidence he ever changed his official status. Sorry, there is not any natinoalistic point here, if not your behalf.(KIENGIR (talk) 18:54, 26 March 2020 (UTC))