The Scientist Who's Known As The Father Of Handwashing Today we know that one of the easiest and most effective things you can do to protect yourself from the cold, flu, and other respiratory illnesses (including those like the novel coronavirus) is to wash your hands. But there was a time when that wasn't so obvious. Dana Tulodziecki, a professor at Purdue University, tells the story of Ignaz Semmelweis, the scientist who's credited with discovering the importance of handwashing. We'll hear how he figured it out and why there's more to the story. Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.
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The Surprising Origin Of Some Timely Advice: Wash Your Hands

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The Surprising Origin Of Some Timely Advice: Wash Your Hands

The Surprising Origin Of Some Timely Advice: Wash Your Hands

The Surprising Origin Of Some Timely Advice: Wash Your Hands

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/801214939/801412292" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Until the 19th century, scientists did not understand the role of hand-washing in disease prevention. Thomas Lohnes/DDP/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Thomas Lohnes/DDP/AFP via Getty Images

Until the 19th century, scientists did not understand the role of hand-washing in disease prevention.

Thomas Lohnes/DDP/AFP via Getty Images

Today we know that one of the easiest and most effective things you can do to protect yourself from the cold, flu, and other respiratory illnesses (including those like the novel coronavirus) is to wash your hands. But there was a time when that wasn't so obvious. Dana Tulodziecki, a professor at Purdue University, tells the story of Ignaz Semmelweis, the scientist who's credited with discovering the importance of handwashing. We'll hear how he figured it out and why there's more to the story.

Follow host Maddie Sofia on Twitter @maddie_sofia. Email the show at shortwave@npr.org.

This episode was produced by Rebecca Davis and Brent Baughman and edited by Viet Le, with fact checking by Emily Vaughn.