Oliver Wendell Holmes, US physician

Oliver Wendell Holmes, US physician

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Credit: US LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), US physician and poet. Holmes is most famous as a poet, but his medical work includes an 1843 paper on puerperal fever, a post-natal infection of the womb. Holmes claimed that it was caused by doctors not washing their hands between examinations in hospitals, but this was only accepted when use of antiseptics in the 1870s reduced the infections. Holmes was the first person to use the term 'anaesthesia' for the pain-free unconsciousness caused by ether. His most famous poetical works are Old Ironsides, and The Last Leaf. His prose included The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table and The Guardian Angel (1868).

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