Create and share a new lesson based on this one.

About TED-Ed Originals

TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Jessica Oreck
  • Director Jessica Oreck
  • Animator Jessica Oreck
  • Composer Eli Janney, Nate Shaw
  • Narrator Jessica Oreck


Additional Resources for you to Explore
In the passage below The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s first surgeon in chief William Stewart Halsted describes the origin of rubber gloves - a simple solution to a problem that irked his chief nurse:

In the winter of 1889 and 1890—I cannot recall the month—the nurse in charge of my operating-room complained that the solutions of mercuric chloride produced a dermatitis of her arms and hands. As she was an unusually efficient woman, I gave the matter my consideration and one day in New York requested the Goodyear Rubber Company to make as an experiment two pair of thin rubber gloves with gauntlets. On trial these proved to be so satisfactory that additional gloves were ordered. In the autumn, on my return to town, an assistant who passed the instruments and threaded the needles was also provided with rubber gloves to wear at the operations. At first the operator wore them only when exploratory incisions into joints were made. After a time the assistants became so accustomed to working in gloves that they also wore them as operators and would remark that they seemed to be less expert with the bare hands than with the gloved hands.

A personal and simple solution had groundbreaking consequences for surgical practices. It soon became clear that rubber gloves would help prevent the spread of infection and provide barrier protection in public health. Learn more about the Halsteds here. Interested in the history of surgery and sterilization? You can visit this link to learn more.

One drawback of Halsted’s gloves is that they trigger allergic reactions in some patients and doctors. This article
describes the decision to replace latex with sterile neoprene and polyisoprene gloves at the very hospital their use was first popularized