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10 Unappreciated Geniuses

Ignaz Semmelweis

It's hard to believe, but the idea that doctors should wash their hands before surgery was once controversial. Indeed, the Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis caught some serious flak for realizing that it was a necessity. Semmelweis had observed that women in childbirth had a much higher survival rate when obstetricians washed their hands in disinfectant (go figure!). But nobody knew that there were tiny, gross creepers all over the place back then, and doctors were quite offended by Semmelweis' theory, taking it to mean they were dirty. Scorned by the medical community, Semmelweis became depressed and was eventually committed to an asylum, where he died. He posthumously earned the name "savior of mothers" for his insight, and he also inspired the term "Semmelweis reflex"—the reflexive public rejection of new theories in favor of established beliefs (obviously, a big theme for this slideshow).

Tags: science, slideshows, life, geniuses, nikola tesla, thomas edison

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Becky Ferreira

Becky Ferreira is a writer, performer, and raptor based in New York.

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