Clean hands and the Scientific Revolution


Thursday, April 23, 2020 - 14:00



This will be a general-audience geek-out talk via Zoom. 
Speaker: Yasha Neiman.
Title: Clean hands and the Scientific Revolution.

I'd like to discuss the astonishing history of hand washing, as a near-perfect object lesson on all aspects of the Scientific Revolution and the practice of science.

Trigger warnings:
1. Politically incorrect discussion of the European conquest of the world.
2. Graphic descriptions of 19th century medicine. Cue in the theme song from A Series of Unfortunate Events: "Look away... Look away... Ask any stable person 'should I watch' and they will say.. Look away... Look away... Look away..."

Credit goes first and foremost to Pavel Radzivilovski, my teacher and friend from the Israeli Physics Olympiad, who exposed me many years ago to the tale of Ignaz Sommelweis and the Particles of Death. Hat-tip also to Radiolab, who recently circulated the same story for obvious reasons. And, for me, this became a much bigger story thanks to Wikipedia. Seriously, all hail Wikipedia.

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