Henry Drysdale Dakin. Photograph by George D. Acker. Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London.

Henry Drysdale Dakin, an English chemical-bacteriologist, studied Chemistry as a Leeds Water Analyst and later with Professor Julius B. Cohen at the Yorkshire College (later, University of Leeds). In 1905 he moved to Columbia University, returning to England in 1914 to perform war service.

The trench warfare conditions had given rise to much contamination of wounds by soil pathogens. Clostridium welchii, one of the worst offenders which caused gas-gangrene and many deaths, was an anaerobic faecal bacillus liberally strewn about by shelling of trenches and their latrines.

In 1916 on the Western Front near Compiegne, France, Dakin and French-born Alexis Carrel (1973-1944) of the Rockefeller Institute of New York (and Nobelist for Medicine in 1912 for his wound-suturing techniques), devised the Carrel-Dakin wound-treatment solution. — a simple low-tech solution consisting of 0.5% sodium hypochlorite bleach with 4% boric acid in water that could be splashed around liberally as well as surgically.

Last modified 12 December 2016