Semmelweis's work was accepted by the medical community only a few years later when Louis Pasteur supported the germ theory
of disease and the microscope was soon able to see pathogens.
A further example of this in the commonly told story is the way in which the opponents of antisepsis are made to seem ignorant in their refusal of antisepsis, as they did not believe in germ theory
Some of the miasmatists, aligned with the sanitarian movement, saw the germ theory
as just another excuse for governments to avoid spending money on public health infrastructure such as garbage disposal and provision of clean drinking water.
Eating food off the floor, believe it or not, did not become taboo until the 19th century with the formulation of the modern germ theory
Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch establish the germ theory
Almost any modern work on archaeology geology science medicine or even Egyptian or Chinese history will present some intriguing fact (be it the germ theory
of disease the operation of volcanoes the interpretation of hieroglyphs or other esoterica) with a footnote referencing a work by Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680).
But modern medicine did not take note, and pasteurization and the germ theory
of disease produced income--so it remained--along with vaccination and supposed immunization, injecting the weakened microbe in order to stimulate the immune system to develop a complete immunity.
The period under discussion, roughly the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, was a time of breathtakingly rapid advances in medicine and biology, especially with the triumph of the germ theory
of communicable disease, the rise of Darwinian evolutionary theory and genetics, the development of microbiological models of immunity, and the application of scientifically based public health measures.
Others, such as the doubts of Samuel Gross on the germ theory
of Lister, sound quaint and fortunately outmoded.
Instead, as Laura Otis has argued, the development of germ theory
in the 1870s meant that there was widespread anxiety that "[I]mperial cell bodies might be in danger from colonized ones, even in the metropolitan centres, and there was concern about the health and the integrity of the national body at home and the imperial body overseas" [p.
Between the lines--Tayman does not address it--one can discern both the strength of the model of germ theory
and the trap that models lay for us.
The germ theory
of disease was once described as a "ridiculous fiction.