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Google Doodle honors Ignaz Semmelweis and reminds you to wash your hands

As we are all facing the coronavirus pandemic together as a global community, Google is using its platform as the most popular search engine to replace its homepage logo in nearly every country around the world with a Doodle honoring Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, “the father of infection control” and a pioneer in hand washing.

It may shock you to know that the washing of hands has not always been a common practice, even in the field of medicine. In the mid 19th century, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis noticed that new mothers were frequently dying from unknown illnesses that began shortly after child birth.

Dr. Semmelweis proposed the possibility that doctors and other medical staff were inadvertently infecting these women with bacteria and other materials from their most recent patients. As Chief Resident of the maternity clinic of Vienna General Hospital in Austria, a position to which he was appointed on this day in 1847, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis required all staff to wash their hands between patients.

While his theory wasn’t commonly accepted among his contemporaries until decades later, the rate of infection at Vienna General Hospital went down sharply thanks to Dr. Semmelweis’s efforts.

To celebrate the continuing impact of his findings, even as we deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, Ignaz Semmelweis is being honored with a video Google Doodle. In the Doodle, the good doctor shows a demonstration of how to wash your hands, including a 40-second timer.

If you’re looking for a more helpful way to remember the steps without needing to consult a video, Google has Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis return with a helpful printable poster that includes individual instructions for the full hand washing process.

Ignaz Semmelweis hand washing chart

This is far from Google’s first public recommendation on how best to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, with the company prominently sharing encouragements to “DO THE FIVE.” For us to beat this, we all need to come together to take these small steps.

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Avatar for Kyle Bradshaw Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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