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March 31, 1962


JAMA. 1962;179(13):1024-1025. doi:10.1001/jama.1962.03050130028010

Thesistence of the Greeks upon cleanliness in physical contacts between patient and physician might be conceived as the introduction of asepsis into medicine. But not until the latter part of the 18th century were infection and contagion under suspicion in the etiology of puerperal fever. White of Manchester observed that the incidence of puerperal fever varied greatly among communities or segments of the population and inferred that this might be related to exogenous matter carried by midwives. Gordon of Aberdeen, in 1795, stated dogmatically that contact or communication between a patient with puerperal sepsis and a healthy parturient female was hazardous. Finally, Collins of the Dublin Lying-In Hospital instituted chlorine disinfection of the hands to suppress the dread malady. These and other clinical observations were corroborative evidence for Oliver Wendell Holmes in his essay "The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever," read to the Boston Society for Medical Improvement in 1843. The