..... Stumper Index
Stumper #26.
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Hospitalization – Now .... and Then

Whether we are admitted to hospital because of an illness or for a surgical procedure we mostly take it for granted these days that we will get better - not sicker.

However, until the mid 1800s, this was certainly not the case. There was not a good understanding of the existence and nature of germs and the mortality rate from infections picked up in hospital was often as high as 60%. Then, in Hungary, Ignaz Philipp Semmelweiss started to insist that all medical attendants wash their hands in 'chloride of lime' before surgery. In England, Joseph Lister used carbolic acid to disinfect surgical instruments. Now mortality rates began to fall.

Later, dramatic improvements in hospital treatment came as a result of experience gained by the subject of this Stumper in Turkey during the Crimean War. This person treated the wounded, trained nurses, systematized record-keeping practices, and developed new techniques of statistical analysis, such as the "polar-area diagram" to dramatize the needless deaths caused by unsanitary conditions. The idea that social phenomena could be objectively measured and subjected to mathematical analysis was revolutionary.

Our subject was the principal advocate of the ‘pavilion’ plan for hospitals, a central courtyard plan in which fresh air and light were basic issues. In 1883 our subject wrote that, "The effect in sickness of beautiful objects and especially of colour is hardly at all appreciated...Variety of form and brilliancy of colour in objects presented to patients are actually means of recovery."

Who was this well-known person ... who treated the sick and injured, revolutionised hospital statistics, was largely responsible for the adoption of the pavilion-style hospital, was elected a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society in 1858, an honorary member of the American Statistical Association in 1874, and died in 1910 aged 90 years?

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