It was Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis who in 1847 first came to realize that washing hands prevented infection. He mandated this in the obstetric ward a Vienna General Hospital and the mortality rate for new mothers fell from 18 percent to 2 percent.
He proselytized the policy to the point his fellow doctors thought him mad. They lured him to a Viennese insane asylum in 1865 under the pretense that he would be visiting a new medical institute. He was put in a straitjacket and confined to a darkened cell. He died two weeks later after a wound on his hand became gangrenous.