The term contagionist derives from a nineteenth-century medical theory known as contagionism. Back in the day, contagionists were pioneering doctors and scientists who proposed the then-radical notion that certain diseases were transmitted person-to-person through physical contact.
The contagionists were opposed by the anti-contagionists, who stubbornly held to the era’s orthodox medical position – that “bad air” emanating from rotting organic matter was the agent of disease transmission. This viewpoint, known as miasma theory, dated back to ancient times and existed across many different cultures worldwide. Go figure.
Eventually, the famous French scientist Louis Pasteur decided the matter in favour of the contagionists. He did this by proving that there was, indeed, a connection between certain diseases and specific microbes that spread person-to-person through physical contact. His discovery ushered in modern germ theory, for which we can all be thankful.
Here at Contagionst, we have profound respect for the historical roots of our company name. Though little known today, the story of the contagionists represents a fascinating chapter in modern medical history. Society owes these individuals a tremendous debt for their successful efforts to improve public health – and for the countless lives they saved.
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