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Scientists’ Contribution to Germ Theory

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Biology
Wordcount: 1561 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Scientists’ Contribution to Germ Theory

Ignaz Semmelweis

Ignaz Semmelweis made an invaluable contribution to the field of microbiology in the 1840s by discovering that hand-washing significantly reduced the number of deaths among women after childbirth. The Hungarian physician found out that microbes that caused infections were easily transferred from one person to another in hospital clinics. For that reason, he recommended people to apply chlorinated lime solution while washing hands as way to stop the disease from spreading (Ataman, Vatanoglu-Lutz & Yildirim, 2013). According to the authors, the use of Semmelweis’ method significantly reduced the incidents of deadly puerperal fever; thereby saving the lives of many people.

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The scientist’s discovery is still relevant in the modern world. As an illustration, in healthcare organisations, people are able to eliminate or destroy strains of bacteria by simply washing their hands. What is more, as a result of Semmelweis’ investigation, medical practitioners and nurse leaders understand the importance of supplying wards with antiseptic hand gel that can be used by visitors and caregivers before they come into contact with patients, especially those who are at risk of infections.  The obstetrician’s work, however, encountered criticism from various medical professionals who were not persuaded by his findings. The disapproval notwithstanding, the physician’s discovery is essential because it not only leads to the creation of a safe environment for patients and medical staff but also helps in avoiding common infections.

Robert Koch

 Robert Koch contributed significantly to the development of chemicals that kill particular bacteria. The German doctor built on Louis Pasteur’s work concerning germ theory where he used certain experiments to determine whether Bacillus anthracis , a bacteria, was the cause of anthrax. Koch’s motivation was the need to discover whether bacteria caused illnesses. In his experiment, Koch extracted Bacillus anthracis from a sheep that had died of anthrax (Blevins & Bronze, 2010). He injected the bacteria into a mouse and repeated the process over different generations of mice and discovered the rodents developed the disease. In 1876, the microbiologist declared that Bacillus anthracis was responsible for anthrax.

 Koch’s discovery has resulted in improvements in medical knowledge in the modern world. His research, for example, led to research of disease prevention as well as treatment of illnesses by vaccines (Lakhtakia, 2014). Without his study, therefore, it can be argued that preventive medicine and immunology would not be increasingly successful as it is today. Hence, his experiments played a critical role in discovering chemicals that destroy bacteria and develop immunity against illnesses, which could otherwise easily develop; thus, undermining people’s quality of life and result in financial liabilities and deaths.



Development of Epidemiology

John Snow

 John Snow played a critical role in the analysis of the distribution of illnesses and determinants of health in particular populations. In 1854, Snow conducted a study where he sought to determine the causes of cholera after an epidemic of the disease in England and other parts of Europe (Hajna, Buckeridge & Hanley, 2015). Since the physician believed that polluted water was responsible for cholera (because patients experienced digestive problems), he developed a spot map of Golden Square, London and marked areas with water pumps. He then established the relationship that existed between households with incidents of the disease with the location of water pumps. Snow concluded that in households whose members suffered the disease, dirty water mixed with clean water, which families deemed fit for domestic use.

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Snow’s investigation contributes to the development of prevention and treatment of cholera. Since his analysis and study, medical professionals and genera public gained a detailed understanding that to eliminate cholera epidemics, they must not only isolate water pipes and wells from sewers and drains but they should also emphasise simple, yet vital practices, including drinking and using safe water, cooking food well and washing hands regularly with soap. Therefore, while Snow’s work did not satisfy some of his colleagues in the medical profession, particularly those who found his evidence of cholera being a solely waterborne disease unconvincing, he is rightly credited with improving people’s health and saving many lives.

Development of Vaccination

Edward Jenner

 The work of Edward Jenner holds a unique place in the history of vaccination. In 1796, the scientist found out that cowpox infection protected people front smallpox (Smith, 2011). After making the discovery, Jenner inoculated a child with cowpox material obtained from a milkmaid. The physician then exposed the eight-year-old to smallpox matter, but he never contracted the disease. He repeated the process with other children and attained similar results. Jenner’s motivation to carry conduct the experiment was due to the belief in his community that milkmaids were never infected with smallpox.

 This method of vaccination contributed significantly to the eradication of smallpox. Indeed, according to World Health Organization (2016),               smallpox is the only human illness that has been successfully eliminated by vaccination. Notably, despite its success, Jenner’s work was opposed and ridiculed by some people, particularly because he lacked compelling explanation why the method worked. In later years, however, the world continues to benefit fully from the scientist’s efforts, whereby governments and health sectors have managed to address one of the deadliest human diseases. 

Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur considerably changed people’s understanding of biology.  In 1879, the French chemist studied vaccination regarding a disease known as chicken cholera, which at that time was killing breeding chicken. According to Berche (2012), Pasteur discovered that cultures of the disease lost pathogenicity and reserved weakened characteristics over the next generations. After making the discovery, the microbiologist immunised chicken with the lessened form and proved that the birds were resistant to the virulent strain. From that point on, his experimental work focused on the immunisation problem and used this principle to other diseases. For example, in 1881, he played an important role in the development of vaccine for anthrax, before testing his first vaccine for human use in 1885.

Pasteur’s discovery of chicken cholera vaccine transformed works and efforts in infectious diseases.  In a similar vein, his trials for anthrax and rabies vaccination were landmarks, which up to today have helped medical practitioners to improve the health of many individuals and save lives. Admittedly, whereas some people accuse Pasteur of exaggerating his experiments, his contribution of vaccination has played a fundamental role in the reduction mortality and morbidity of infectious illnesses in the developed world. His work has also advanced the field of virology and stimulated vaccine research across the globe.


  • Ataman, A. D., Vatanoglu-Lutz, E. E., & Yıldırım, G. (2013). Medicine in stamps-Ignaz Semmelweis and Puerperal Fever. Journal of the Turkish-German Gynecological Association, 14(1), 35-39. doi: 10.5152/jtgga.2013.08
  • Berche, P. (2012). Louis Pasteur, from crystals of life to vaccination. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 18(5), 1-6. doi:10.1111/j.1469-0691.2012.03945.x
  • Hajna, S., Buckeridge,D. L., & Hanley, J.A. (2015). Substantiating the impact of John Snow’s contributions using data deleted during the 1936 reprinting of his original essay On the Mode of Communication of Cholera. International Journal of Epidemiology, 44(6), 1794-1799.  doi: 10.1093/ije/dyv164
  • Lakhtakia, R. (2014). The Legacy of Robert Koch. Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, 14(1), 37-41.
  • Blevins, S. M., & Bronze, M.S. (2010). Robert Koch and the ‘golden age’ of bacteriology. International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 14(9), 744-751. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2009.12.003
  • Smith, K. A. (2011). Edward Jenner and the Small Pox Vaccine. Frontiers in Immunology, 2(21), 1-6. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2011.00021
  • World Health Organization. (2016). Smallpox vaccines. Retrieved  on October 2, 2019 from https://www.who.int/csr/disease/smallpox/vaccines/en/


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