©Wellcome Library, London

The dissecting room

An anatomical dissection by Dr John Bland-Sutton at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School in London. The doctors wear outdoor clothes with no protective covering, and dissect with their bare hands. In many hospitals and medical schools, dissections and post-mortems were carried out first thing in the morning which meant that doctors and medical students spent the rest of the day carrying germs around the wards. Hand washing was not practised with great enthusiasm because the need for it was not understood even by Semmelweiss. He made few converts because of his dogmatic views and intolerance of criticism. He was eventually confined in a lunatic asylum where he died, possibly from a septic hand - rough justice for a man who pioneered the use of chlorine disinfectant as a skin cleanser.

Source: HC Thomson. The story of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School. Murray, London 1935.