The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct
Thomas S. Szasz
Harper Perennial; Revised edition edition
Semmelweis discovered the cause of puerperal (childbed) fever before the discovery of bacteria as causative agents of diseases. As he accurately but impolitely put it, the cause was the doctors’ dirty hands. Semmelweis also developed a method for preventing the terrifying epidemics of puerperal fever, endemic to mid-nineteenth-century hospital maternity wards: hand-washing with chlorinated water. I was deeply moved by the story of Semmelweis’s life, the rejection of his discovery and remedy by the medical profession inconvenienced by it, and his incarceration and death in an insane asylum. It taught me, at an early age, that being wrong can be dangerous, but being right, when society regards the majority’s falsehood as truth, could be fatal.