Date of Award

Spring 1937

Document Type



Life & Environmental Sciences


Since the beginning of history it has been known that the use of certain agents applied to wounds aided in their healing. Spices and arsenicals, which we now know to have antiseptic properties, were applied in diseases of the skin. The early antipathogens were principally organic antiseptics. Mercury and arsenic were used in the Middle Ages. The first intentional use of antiseptics was in the obstetric ward of the Vienna General Hospital to prevent puerperal fever.

According to medical distinction general headings of Antiseptic Agents include : (1) "Those substances which are used to enfeeble or to kill pathogenic microbes, to inhibit their growth, to lessen their injurious actions, or to destroy, neutralize, or in some way antidote their toxic products, etc. (2) Those substances which without known destructive or antidotal action upon microbes or their toxic products, yet enable the infected subject to better combat the infection. (3) Those substances which are used to provoke specific or general defensive reactions against pathogenic microbes or their toxic products.

Two groups are defined: A. Chemical Antiseptics B. Agents of Biological Defense

The object of this thesis is to discuss the principal antiseptics used today, and to obtain evidence of their respective values by laboratory tests. In some cases the claims of manufacturers are verified, and in other cases they are criticized.

This work was carried out by standard methods observing as closely as facilities would permit the same conditions and controls as those indicated in the literature of manufacturers and of the United States Food and Drug Administration. A secondary object of this thesis is to cover in a general manner the antiseptics in use today, especially the newer ones.