An unknown hero

By: Ruth Sharpe

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DR. JOHN Piper was at the Hotel Garbe in Armação de Pêra on February 21 to sign copies of his new book, The Mother Killers.

The book tackles one of the biggest, yet often overlooked, health issues of the 19th century, puerperal sepsis, more commonly known as ‘childbed fever’. The infectious disease was a serious form of septicaemia, contracted by a woman during or shortly after childbirth and was prominent in Europe and North America in 1845.

Speaking about the book, Dr. Piper said: “I wanted to make sure I was telling a story rather than writing a textbook.” The story mixes together fact with non-fictional characters to convey the horrors of the disease.

The central character is Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician who faced a constant struggle to overcome the ignorance of the mid 19th century medical profession.  Dr. Piper was motivated to dedicate a book to Semmelweis as he rarely came across anyone who had heard of the physician, something he found remarkable considering that Semmelweis had discovered the cause and cure for such a terrible disease.


Sadly, his work was not recognised by Louis Pasteur until long after his death, although he was eventually known as “the saviour of mothers” for his findings.

Dr. Piper began the process of writing the book seven years ago when he began researching Semmelweis by travelling to Vienna and Budapest. After signing with publishers last year, the book was officially released on February 22.

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