Who better to show us how to wash our hands properly than Dr Ignác Semmelweis? The famous 19th-century Hungarian physician and the world’s first scientist to discover the health benefits of hand-washing has been given the star role as presenter in an informative new animated video clip created by the team at Doodle.

Washing our hands is now a vital, even life-saving, part of our daily life – which is exactly why Doodle have devised a fun way to show us how to do it properly, thanks to the good Dr Ignác Semmelweis.

Born in Buda in 1818, Ignác Semmelweis was working in Vienna when he noticed a mysterious and unknown illness, puerperal fever, with a high mortality rate among mothers who had just given birth. So rife was the problem, in fact, that some even preferred to give birth in the street rather than risk entering a hospital. And those who did mainly survived. After an in-depth examination, Semmelweis realised that puerperal fever was the result of an infection spread by doctors who didn’t wash their hands between operations and autopsies. 

Semmelweis ordered staff to wash their hands before each examination and the number of cases fell sharply in his department. Unfortunately, many of his colleagues were sceptical and Semmelweis spent the rest of his relatively short life mocked and shunned, carted off to a lunatic asylum where he was beaten and strapped in a straightjacket. He died at the age of 47. Perhaps worse, his hygiene recommendations were only adopted decades later. 

Semmelweis came to be known as the ‘saviour of mothers’ and globally recognised for his achievements – hence the Doodle animation. This year marks the 250th anniversary of the physician’s birth and several events have already taken place in Budapest, where the house where he was born has been converted into a museum dedicated to his life and work. A English-language video on the museum’s website shows the history and activities of the renowned medical university also named after him.