Copland.—Considers it proved that puerperal fever may be propagated by the hands and the clothes, or either, of a third person, the bed-clothes or body-clothes of a patient. Mentions a new series of cases, one of which he saw, with the practitioner who had attended them. She was the sixth he had had within a few days. All died. Dr. Copland insisted that contagion had caused these cases; advised precautionary measures, and the practitioner had no other cases for a considerable time. Considers it criminal, after the evidence adduced,—which be could have quadrupled,—and the weight of authority brought forward, for a practitioner to be the medium of transmitting contagion and death to his patients. Dr. Copland lays down rules similar to those suggested by myself, and is therefore entitled to the same epithet for so doing. Medical Dictionary, New York, 1853. Article, Puerperal States and Diseases.
If there is any appetite for facts so craving as to be yet unappeased,—lassata, necdum satiata,—more can be obtained. Dr. Hodge remarks that “the frequency and importance of this singular circumstance that the disease is occasionally more prevalent with one practitioner than another, has been exceedingly overrated.” More than thirty strings of cases, more than two hundred and fifty sufferers from puerperal fever, more than one hundred and thirty deaths, appear as the results of a sparing estimate of such among the facts I have gleaned as could be numerically valued. These facts constitute, we may take it for granted, but a small fraction of those that have actually occurred. The number of them might be greater, but “’t is enough, ’t will serve,” in Mercutio’s modest phrase, so far as frequency is concerned. For a just estimate of the importance of the singular circumstance, it might be proper to consult the languid survivors, the widowed husbands, and the motherless children, as well as “the unfortunate accoucheur.”
On the antiseptic principle of
the practice of surgery
Joseph Lister was born at Upton, Essex, England, in 1827, and received Aw general education at the University of London. After graduation he studied medicine in London and Edinburgh, and became lecturer in surgery at the University in the latter city. Later he was professor of surgery at Glasgow, at Edinburgh, and at King’s College Hospital, London, and surgeon to Queen Victoria. He was made a baronet in 1883; retired from teaching in 1893; and was raised to the peerage in 1897, with the title of Baron Lister.
Even before the work of Pasteur on fermentation and putrefaction, Lister had been convinced of the importance of scrupulous cleanliness and the usefulness of deodorants in the operating room; and when, through Pasteur’s researches, he realised that the formation of pus was due to bacteria, he proceeded to develop his antiseptic surgical methods. The immediate success of the new treatment led to its general adoption, with results of such beneficence as to make it rank as one of the great discoveries of the age.