"The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever” (1843), by Oliver Wendell Holmes
In 1843, physician Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote and published The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever, an essay about puerperal fever, a disease that occurs mainly as a result of bacterial infection in the uterine tract of women after giving birth or undergoing an abortion. In the essay, Holmes argues that puerperal fever is spread through birth attendants like physicians and midwives who make contact with the disease and carry it from patient to patient. The article was published in The New England Quarterly Journal of Medicine and Surgery in 1843. Holmes, who lived in Boston, Massachusetts, later republished his essay as a private publication in 1855 with a different title, Puerperal Fever as a Private Pestilence. Holmes's essay was one of the first publications to present puerperal fever as a contagious disease and to discuss preventative measures to inhibit the spread of puerperal fever, which helped preserve the lives of pregnant women and their newborns.