A letter written by Ignác Semmelweis to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, in which he reported on his groundbreaking discovery of the importance of handwashing, has been donated to the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The manuscript, recovered from the estate of Dr. László Bakos, will be housed in the teaching room of the clinic.

The facsimile (an exact replica of the original), written by Ignác Semmelweis to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1860, was presented to the department’s director, Dr. Nándor Ács, by the widow and son of Dr. László Bakos, who passed away in March 2020. The letter will be placed on the wall of the Director’s office next to the portrait of Ignác Semmelweis. A copy of the letter, with the typed text of the manuscript, will be displayed in the teaching room of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.



Dr. László Bakos spent his entire professional career at the then II Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Semmelweis University, and as a physician he was present at the demolition of the original clinic and the construction of the new building – recalled Dr. Nándor Ács, Director. He said that Dr. Bakos was one of the founders of gynaecological ultrasound examinations in Hungary, and for many years he headed the clinic’s ultrasound laboratory. He was fond of collecting relics related to the history of obstetrics and the department, and his gynaecologist colleagues who were older than him left him many mementos, including a painting of Semmelweis, that was how he came to have Ignác Semmelweis’ letter, he explained.

Dr. László Bakos’s widow Zsuzsanna said that she accidentally had found the facsimile among her husband’s bequests, the original of which is kept in the Manuscript Archives and Old Books Collection of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. She recalled that her husband was born in this clinic, so he was bound to it from the first day of his life to the last, and worked here continuously from the time he graduated.

The video about Ignác Semmelweis and his discovery is available here.

Bernadett Bódi, translation Rita Kónya
Photo: Bálint Barta – Semmelweis University