2 photos, one of doctors in hazmat suits and another of a large light hanging from the ceiling

On This Day: January 19, 1936

Ultraviolet Lamps Used to Kill Germs in Operating Rooms

After identifying Staphylococcus aureus in operating room air as the source of many troubling post-surgical infections at Duke Hospital, surgery chairman J. Deryl Hart, MD worked with the Westinghouse Corp. to make an ultraviolet lamp tuned to the specific wavelengths of light that killed bacteria without giving the patient a nasty sunburn. Eight of the Westinghouse lamps were installed in a Duke operating room where carefully gowned teams operated on animals to see if the system would work without causing harm. It did. Once the UV lamps were adopted hospital-wide, surgical infections dropped and wound-healing improved.