Josepf Lister

Joseph Lister


Figure 1 Lister Spraying Carbolic Acid during operation

By Unknown – Populär historia 2/2015, Public Domain,

Table of Contents


Joseph Lister (2,3) was a British surgeon (1,2) who introduced new principles of cleanliness (3) by inventing antiseptic surgery. (4) He was born (2,3) in Upton (4,7) in Essex (3,7) on 5th April 1827. (2,4) He was the fourth (7) of 7 children. (4,7) He came from a family of Quakers. (9,10) His mother Isabella Harris Lister (7,11) and his father was (4,11) Joseph Jackson Lister (7,8) who was a (4) wealthy (7) Quaker (4,5) wine merchant (4,7) but also a keen amateur scientist, (5,8) a physicist (5) [OR] student of Latin and mathematics. (7) He became a member of the Royal Society (5,8) because he had developed (7) [OR] paved the way for (8) an achromatic (possessing no colour [OR] non-colour distorting) lens for the microscope (7) and co-authored a paper with Thomas Hodgkin about red blood cells. (10) His son Joseph, the future surgeon, studied fish and small animals. (7) His father naturally encouraged his interest in science, (5,8) and paternal guidance was a major influence throughout Lister’s career. (10) He became interested in comparative anatomy. (11) In addition to dissecting small creatures, articulating their skeletons, and sketching the remains (8) young Joseph also did microscopic research. (7,8) He would rely on microscopes throughout his scientific career, using them to research the action of muscles in the skin and the eye, how blood coagulated, and how blood vessels reacted during an infection’s early stages. (8)



Lister knew at a young age (3,7) [OR] before his 16th birthday (11) that he wanted to be a surgeon, (3,7) but his father (7,11) and mother (11) made sure he completed his formal education first, just in case1. (7) He sent Joseph to Quaker Schools, which put emphasis in the sciences, giving him a strong foundation in what was to be his chosen profession. (9) At the age of 11 (4) Joseph Lister was sent to school in Hitchin (4,7) in Hertfordshire. (9) Aged 13 he was then (4) sent to school in Tottenham (4,7) in London. (9) He studied mathematics, natural science, and languages. (7) While away at school, Lister came down with a mild case of smallpox. (8) He recovered, but the health scare—along with the death of his older brother, who succumbed to a brain tumour—pushed him into a deep depression. (8) The student left school in London and travelled around Britain and Europe for a year or so before returning to the university and pursuing his medical studies with renewed vigour. (8)


Then in 1844, (4,7) when he was 17, (4) he qualified to become a medical student. (9) [OR] took an arts course at (11) University College (4,5) Hospital (6,8) [OR] of University of (10) London. (4,5) Because he was a Quaker, it was the only university he was eligible to enter. (6) In person he was handsome, with a fine athletic figure, fresh complexion, hazel eyes, and silver hair. (11) He was present at the first surgical procedure carried out under anaesthetic in 1846. (3,9) He enrolled in the faculty of medical science in October 1848. (11) He studied botany, surgery (6) and medicine (6,7) and passed his medical degree in 1852. (3,4) It was a Bachelor’s degree (9,11) with honours (11) in Medicine and Surgery. (9) Lister excelled at his studies. (4,5) Because of his exceptional performance, he was awarded two university gold medals. (9) Lister was deeply religious man (5) and like other young professionals, he sometimes had doubts about his career path. (8) At one point he considered becoming a priest instead of a surgeon. (8) However, Lister’s father encouraged him to stay in medicine and serve God by helping the sick. (8) He worked as a house surgeon at University College Hospital, where (8,10) he soon (3) easily (9) became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. (3,8) led to Lister’s appointment as assistant to James Syme, the greatest surgical teacher of his day, and in 1856 he was appointed surgeon to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. (11)

Surgeon at Edinburgh 1856

Joseph became a surgeon (5) and was admitted to be a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. (3) He was recommended by Professor Sharpely of physiology (3,10) to visit (3) [OR] to go to study under (10) the renowned surgeon (8,10) Professor of Clinical Surgery (3) James Syme (3,8) (1799-1870) (3) in Edinburgh. (3,8) [OR] After qualifying he went to Glasgow. (6) The move was supposed to be temporary, [OR] He was on a visit to Edinburgh in the autumn of 1853 (11) but he ended up finding both professional and personal success in Scotland: (4,8) He became Syme’s (3,8) dresser, then, (3,9) in October (11) 1856 (4,11) house (3,9) [OR] assistant (4,8) surgeon (3,4) at Edinburgh Royal (4,5) University (4) [OR] Infirmary. (5,8)


In April (11) he married (4,8) Syme’s eldest (10,11) daughter Agnes (4,8) becoming James Syme’s son-in-law. (3,4) Agnes belonged to the Scottish Episcopal Church (8) so Lister joined it, (11) ceasing to be a Quaker. (8) Agnes entered fully into Lister’s professional life. (9,11) She had a great interest in medical research, and became his laboratory partner. (9) Joseph and Agnes did not have children. (4,11) Book 6 says: ‘He moved to Edinburgh in 1869 where he worked with James Syme, the Professor of Clinical Surgery, later marrying his daughter’, (6) which confuses his two periods at Edinburgh, the first in 1856 and the second in 1869. (HN)

Research at Edinburgh

His research centred on the microscopic changes in tissue that result in inflammation, (7,10) a process then considered a specific disease and not a response by healthy tissues to infection. (10) Lister did come to understand that inflammation caused loss of vitality, which rendered tissues helpless as if they were dead, helpless against organisms he would eventually attribute as the cause of the devastating and feared surgical site infections. (10) He published 15 papers about the action of muscles in the skin and the eye, the coagulation of blood and blood vessel changes with infection. (10)

Regius Professor of Surgery at Glasgow 1860

After three years at Edinburgh, the Regius Professorship of Surgery at Glasgow University fell vacant (11) and at 33 years of age, (10) Lister was elected from seven applicants, (11) and moved to Glasgow in 1860. (3,4) He was now Regius (5,10) Professor of Surgery (3,5) at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary (5,7) [OR] at the University of Glasgow. (8,10) It took him another year to get privileges at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. (5,10) His initial application was rejected by the Chair of the Royal Infirmary Board, David Smith, with the comment ‘But our institution is a curative one. It is not an educational one.’ (10) Glasgow had twice the population of Edinburgh and was renowned for its ‘warm-hearted, voluble and uncritically friendly inhabitants,’ an ideal environment for a young surgeon to embark on a new, unproven treatment regime. (10) In August 1861 he was appointed surgeon to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where he was in charge of wards in the new surgical block. (11)

Current state of surgery

The managers hoped that hospital disease (now known as operative sepsis—infection of the blood by disease-producing microorganisms) would be greatly decreased in their new building. (11) The hope proved vain, however. (11) We take it for granted that a surgeon will guard a patient’s safety by using aseptic methods, but this was not always the case. (3) The world of surgery when Lister began his practice was primitive by our standards. (10) Bloodstained bed linens and lab coats weren’t washed, and surgical instruments were rarely cleaned. (8) The same probe was used for the wounds of all patients during rounds to look for pockets of undrained pus. (10) Suppuration and ‘laudable pus’ were considered part of normal healing. (10) And even though Italian physician Fracastoro of Verona had theorized in 1546 that small germs could cause contagious diseases, nobody thought they had anything to do with wound infections. (8) With the introduction of anaesthesia (something that causes a patient to lose sensation in a certain area of the body or the entire body) in the 1840s, operations had become more common, but many patients died from infection following surgery. (7) Before Lister’s time it was common for injuries to become infected after surgery. (3,4) Inflammation (swelling) and suppuration (pus formation) occurred in almost all accidental wounds after surgery, and more so when patients were treated at the hospital rather than at home by a visiting surgeon. (7) A patient could undergo a procedure successfully only to die from (3) a postoperative infection known as ‘ward fever’, (3,9) when putrefaction occurred. (6) Surgical patients routinely died from their operations. (6,8) A common surgical report was ‘operation successful but the patient died’. (6) Half (1,5) [OR] ‘approximately 1 in 4’ (6) patients died on surgical wards from infection (1,5) and all surgical wards were recognisable by the smell of putrefaction. (6) As a result wounds were heavily dressed or washed with water to keep the air out; operations were a last resort. (7) The head, chest, and stomach were almost never opened, and injured limbs were usually amputated (cut off). (7) There were movements to abolish all surgery in hospitals because of the prohibitive death rate from infection, and Sir J. E. Erichsen, a future President of the Royal College of Surgeons, stated ‘The abdomen, chest and brain will forever be closed to operations by a wise and humane surgeon.’ (10) Semmelweis’ work on puerperal fever was unknown. (10) Lister’s interest in wound healing began when he worked as a dresser for Sir Erichsen. (10) The reason for putrefaction was unknown, but it was believed to be (7,8) miasmas, (8,10) or bad air (7,8) that arose from the wound themselves and became concentrated in the air, (10) and not bacteria. (8) Erichsen had deduced that more than 7 patients with an infected wound in a 14-bed ward led to saturation of the air and spread of the dangerous gases causing gangrene. (10) Glasgow was no exception to this general picture: Lister reported that, in his Male Accident Ward, between 45 and 50 percent of his amputation cases died from sepsis between 1861 and 1865. (11)

Lister’s position as a young doctor

Lister wondered what could be causing the alarming rate of ‘ward fever’. (9) He was aware that the deaths after surgery were not caused by the operation itself, but by what followed. (9) He trusted his own observations. (8) As a young doctor-in-training, he noted that some wounds healed when they were cleaned and damaged tissue was removed. (8) Comparing patients who had simple fractures to those who had compound fractures, he concluded that the infection was coming from the outside, as the problem only occurred to those who had open wounds as compared to those who did not have any flesh wound. (9) The problem of infection continued to plague Lister through his career until he encountered the work of (8) French scientist (8,9) chemist and microbiologist (9) Louis Pasteur (8,9) who, pursuing his developments in microbiology (2,4) published his theory that putrefaction is caused by germs, (4,8) tiny organisms (or bacteria) in the patients’ blood. (5) Lister was not convinced by Erichsen’s miasma theory, as when the wounds were debrided and cleaned, some wounds healed. (10) This sparked his suspicion that something in the wound itself was at fault. (10)

Influence of Pasteur

Lister’s great intellectual breakthrough came when, on the advice of Thomas Anderson, a Glasgow professor of chemistry, he read Pasteur’s papers, ‘Recherches sur la putrefaction’, (10) which described his work on micro-organisms (4,6) in 1864 (7) [OR] 1865. (4) This was a surprisingly long time since Pasteur had published. (11) Pasteur had arrived at his theory that microorganisms cause fermentation and disease by experiments on fermentation and putrefaction. (11) Lister’s education and his familiarity with the microscope, the process of fermentation, and the natural phenomena of inflammation and coagulation of the blood impelled him to accept Pasteur’s theory as the full revelation of a half-suspected truth. (11) He had already lost confidence in the popular concept of miasma—direct infection by bad air—he postulated that sepsis might be caused by a pollen-like dust. (11) At the start he believed the germs were carried solely by the air. (11) This incorrect opinion proved useful, for it obliged him to adopt the only feasible method of surgically clean treatment. (11) In his attempt to interpose an antiseptic barrier between the wound and the air, he protected the site of operation from infection by the surgeon’s hands and instruments. (11) Pasteur had worked on vaccination, fermentation and pasteurization. (9) Lister understood the process of fermentation (the chemical breakdown of a compound) in relation to the making of wine, and he knew from his father’s business (7) that wine went bad because the fermentation process was not done properly. (9) He rejected the idea that germs spontaneously came to life within the wine as evolutionists believed. (9) He noted what Pasteur had said about the fermentation of beer and milk being due to living organisms, (6) and picked up the idea. (5,6) He concluded that (6,7) inflammation (7) and putrefaction (6) might be the result of germs entering and developing in the wound. (6,7) Lister (2,5) was a practical technician (5) and believed he was directed by God (5,11) to try out Pasteur’s ideas. (5) He immediately applied Pasteur’s thinking to the problem he was investigating. (7) He thought of ways in which he could apply Pasteur’s ideas (2,4) to prevent postoperative infection, (4) and so deal with the appalling death rates that killed half the surgery patients. (5) It was Lister’s genius to take the work of Pasteur on the etiology of fermentation and envision this process as the same that was causing infection and gangrene. (10) Pasteur’s solution of killing germs with heat could not be applied to the living body. (7) Without using heat, the only solution was to find a way to kill the germs before they get the chance to enter the wound, preventing the infection to occur. (9) After learning (2,6) from a newspaper (7) that authorities in Carlisle were using creosote (containing (2,6) the chemical (7) carbolic acid) to treat smelly sewage, which had not only reduced the odour, (2,6) but reduced disease (6,7) [OR] produced no apparent ill-effects on (2) cattle (2,6) and humans, (6,7) Lister had the idea of using a chemical to destroy the germs instead. (7,8) Upon confirming that it was safe to be used on human flesh, (2,9) Joseph Lister saw it as the solution to the problem. (9) Intrigued, Lister (7,8) started adding hygienic practices before conducting any operation, making sure that his hands were clean and his clothes fresh. (9) At that time, it was common for doctors to walk around covered in blood as this served as a status symbol for them. (9) It was a formula of diluted (8) carbolic acid (phenol). (2,3) a coal-tar derivative used to kill parasites found in sewage—to sterilize medical instruments and wash his hands. (8) He started using it to wash his hands, as well as the instruments he needed in every operation. (9) He applied it to bandages, and sprayed carbolic acid in operating rooms where surgeries resulted in high mortality. (8) He experimented (5,6) to see if he could treat injuries with it. (2,3) Having heard of creosote being used to disinfect sewage, he applied carbolic acid compounds as an antiseptic on surgical wounds. (10)

James Greenlees

Having observed the marked difference in morbidity and mortality between simple and compound fractures, Lister deduced that infection came from exposure to the air in compound fractures without the protection of the skin. (10) He began his antiseptic method with compound fracture wounds because the standard treatment of amputation was always available should his method fail. (10) On August 12th (11) 1865 (5,11) an 11-year-old Glaswegian named James Greenlees was run over by a cart in the street, and had a compound fracture of the lower left leg. (5) He was taken to the male accident ward at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. (5) Lister, then 38 years old, was the surgeon on duty. (5) James’ injury gave him the chance to try out his idea for exploiting what Pasteur had discovered. (5) He was given chloroform and Lister washed the wound out and (5) used carbolic acid to sterilise the surgical instruments and to clean wounds. (2) He applied a dressing of (5,6) lint covered in (9) carbolic acid (5,6) to cover the wound. (6,9) A splint and bandages were put in place and the carbolic acid dressing was renewed again several times as the days went by and the wound began to scab over and heal. (5) After six weeks James was discharged, fully recovered. (5) He found that these had indeed been effective in preventing infection. (2,3) It was his first success with this technique. (5)


The results of this new method of treating wounds were soon apparent. (10) He refined his techniques until he had enough proof that everything he did was successful. (9,10) Then it did not ‘seem right to withhold it longer from the profession generally.’ (10) OR He reported the results (6,8) in a series of six (6) [OR] two (10) articles in The Lancet between March and July. (6,10) [OR] At the Dublin (10 meeting of the British Medical Association (8,10) in August (10) 1867 (8,10) He described how his surgical wards had remained free of sepsis: (6,8)

previous to its introduction, the 2 large wards in which most of my cases of accident and of operation are treated were amongst the unhealthiest in the whole of surgical division at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary (…) but since the antiseptic treatment has been brought into full operation, (…) (10) my wards […] have completely changed their character, so that during the last nine months not a single instance of (8) pyaemia (10) [blood poisoning], hospital gangrene, or erysipelas has occurred in them.’ (8)

Lister reported that before the use of antiseptic treatment, 46% of his surgical patients died. (6) [OR] Lister was not a spectacular operative surgeon and refused to publish statistics2. (11) It vastly reduced the number of people dying from post‑operation infections (1,2) from 50% (1,5) [OR] 25% between 1864 and 1866 (6) to 15% (1,5) between 1867 and 1870. (6) Lister then experimented with hand-washing, sterilising instruments and spraying carbolic in the theatre while operating, in order to limit infection. (3,6)

Associated improvements

He developed the surgical use of a sterile (germ-free) thread for closing wounds and introduced gauze dressings. (7) Joseph Lister introduced the use of rubber drainage tubes after trying it on Queen Victoria. (9) He also showed that sterilized materials could be left inside a patient’s body as needed and used and left sterilized silver wire inside the body to keep broken bones together. (9) And since the silk thread used in internal stitching causes more damage when pulled out after some time, Lister started using sterilized catgut, as this would eventually dissolve. (9) Lister changed the treatment of compound fractures from amputation to limb preservation and opened the way for abdominal and other intracavity surgery. (10)


As expected, (9) it took time (5,9) 12 years (9) for Lister’s methods to gain acceptance, (5,9) The English doctors were among the last to accept the brilliance of Lister’s methods. (9) The scepticism and opposition from some of his colleagues is legendary, as was the enthusiasm when the positive results were evident in the patients. (10) He was denigrated in London, (6,8) where his untraditional methods were scoffed at. (9) Some surgeons claimed that his use of carbolic acid wasted time and money, (8) while many could not believe that (9) organisms too small to be seen (9,10) in their microscopes (10) were causing all the post-operation deaths. (9) Some found it tiring to have to go through the sterilization process before performing an operation. (9) And although some of them tried Lister’s methods, the majority of them did it incorrectly that their efforts proved to be useless. (9)

Edinburgh 1869-1877

In 1869 Lister moved back to Edinburgh, (4,6) succeeding Syme (11) as Professor of Clinical Surgery there. (5,9) He continued to modify his system to achieve better results despite negative feedback. (9) There followed the seven happiest years of his life when, largely as the result of German experiments with antisepsis during the Franco-Prussian War, his clinics were crowded with visitors and eager students. (11) In 1875 Lister made a triumphal tour of the leading surgical centres in Germany. (11) The next year he visited America but was received with little enthusiasm except in Boston and New York City. (11) Lister’s work had been largely misunderstood in England and the United States. (11) Opposition was directed against his germ theory rather than against his ‘carbolic treatment’. (11) The majority of practicing surgeons were unconvinced; while not antagonistic, they awaited clear proof that antisepsis constituted a major advance. (11) Edinburgh, despite the ancient fame of its medical school, was regarded as a provincial centre. (11)

London 1877-1893

Lister felt it was his duty to demonstrate his work to the widest possible audience. (6) In 1877 he moved to London, (4,5) to King’s College (5,7) Hospital. (5) He became Professor of (6,7) Clinical (6) Surgery. (6,7) He brought his house surgeon, Watson Cheyne, three senior students and a nurse from Edinburgh to ensure the success of his work. (6) He became President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. (9) He helped establish the British Institute of Preventative Medicine in 1891, which was later on called The Lister Institute in his honour. (9)

Opposition overcome

Only as Professor of (9,11) Clinical (11) Surgery in London’s King’s College Hospital in 1877 (9,11) was his teaching finally accepted (6,9) after a successful ‘open’ operation for fracture of the patella (kneecap) (6,11) on Oct. 26th 1877. (11) The patient was Francis Smith, who had fractured his patella a fortnight earlier. (6) Wiring a fractured patella, or kneecap entailed the deliberate conversion of a simple fracture, carrying no risk to life, into a compound fracture, which often resulted in generalized infection and death. (11) Lister’s proposal was widely publicized and aroused much opposition. (11) Lister wired together the separated fragments of bone, a process so complex that this acted as a demonstration of how the antiseptic system ‘had removed for ever the threat of hospital disease’. (6) Smith not only survived the operation, but he walked out of the hospital 3 months later. (6) The entire success of his operation forced surgical opinion throughout the world to accept that his method had added greatly to the safety of operative surgery. (11) The evidence was too strong to be ignored and in Britain and abroad other medical men were exploring similar techniques. (5,8) Lister’s methods were a great success, (1,2) transforming surgical practice in the late 1800s. (3) His work was accepted in Germany: (6,9) those who emulated Lister’s example in Munich gained astounding success, with the death rate caused by infection after surgery dropping from 80% to almost zero. (9)

World wide acceptance

He became famous, (4) and gradually his methods were adopted around the world, (3,4) as physicians in Germany, the U.S., France, and Britain followed his lead. (8) As Lister’s fame spread, visitors flocked to the hospital to watch him operate and notices were displayed in three different languages requesting no smoking in the hospital. (6) He corresponded with Pasteur and the two scientists finally met in person for the first time in 1878. (8) By 1879, his findings had gained widespread acceptance around the globe. (9) As Lister’s fame grew, Queen Victoria (8) made him a baronet in 1883, (2,4) becoming Sir Joseph Lister, (2,5) Bt. (2) Lister remained at King’s College Hospital for sixteen years, (6) retiring in 1893 (4,5) when his wife died. (6) [OR] Agnes died in 1892. (4,9) At Pasteur’s 70th birthday celebration in 1892, Lister gave a praise-filled speech about the life-saving benefits of Pasteur’s research. (8) He became the Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons. (9)


Lister was only human, and history has duly recorded some imperfections. (10) Carbolic acid (2,6) in a spray (6,9) to get rid of airborne germs (9) became the first widely used antiseptic in surgery. (2) but the iconic carbolic acid spray was only part of the evolution of antisepsis, (10) as it was recognized that germs in the air were not the main problem (7) as Lister had supposed that it was. (10) Although his students had the utmost respect and praise for him, collegiality in Glasgow was a problem, and he neglected to share credit for his success with other members of the Glasgow team, to the great chagrin of the Royal Infirmary administration. (10) Harsh criticism of the system of medical teaching in London almost cost him his appointment to King’s College Hospital at the peak of his career, and he failed to support equality of women with men in medicine. (10)

Retirement 1893

In 1893 Lister retired from surgery (4,5) and became foreign3 secretary (7) [OR] President (4,5) of the Royal Society (4,5) (Great Britain’s (7) [OR] the world’s (8) oldest (7,8) organization of scientists). (4,7) More fortunate than many pioneers, Lister saw the almost universal acceptance of his principle during his working life. (11) In 1895 Lister was made president of the Royal Society (4,7) and held the post until 1900. (7) He won worldwide acclaim, honours, (7,10) and honorary (received without fulfilling the usual requirements) doctorates. (7)

Peerage 1897

In 1897 he was raised to the peerage (2,4) as 1st (2,6) Baron (2,4) Lord (5) Lister (2,4) of Lyme Regis, (4,6) OM PC PRS FRS (2) in Queen Victoria’s (6,8) Jubilee Honours list. (6) He was the first surgeon to become a peer, (6,9) and was the first person to become a peer for services to medicine. (9) In 1907, aged 80, Lister was given the Freedom of the City of London. (4) He was one of the 12 original (5,11) members of the Order of Merit in 1902. (5,9) He was made Privy Councillor. (9) Lister remained beloved among members of the royal family, including Edward VII, who was diagnosed with appendicitis two days before his royal coronation in 1902. (8) He still entertained requests for his advice and services from time to time, although he was left a bit melancholic after losing his life partner. (9) His doctors consulted Lister before performing a successful surgery, and the king made sure to thank him once he was crowned. (8) ‘I know that if it had not been for you and your work, I wouldn’t be sitting here today,’ the monarch told Lister. (8)

Last Years and Death

In 1908 he moved to (4) Walmer in Kent. (4,7) He became blind and deaf. (5,11) He died (2,4) at Walmer (7,9) on 10th February 1912 (2,4) at the age of 84, (4,5) which his doctor considered ‘a merciful end’. (5) He was given a magnificent funeral in Westminster Abbey (5) and was buried in Hampstead. (4)


Lister referred to some patients as ‘this poor man’ or ‘this good woman’ (he refused to call them ‘cases’), and he always tried to keep them calm and comfortable pre-and post-operation. (8) Once, the surgeon even sewed a doll’s missing leg back into place for a young charge. (8) Lister’s most famous patient was Queen Victoria, (8) whose surgeon he was for many years. (8,9) In 1871, the surgeon was called to the monarch’s estate in the Scottish Highlands after the queen sprouted an orange-sized abscess in her armpit. (8) Armed with carbolic acid, Lister lanced the mass, drained its pus, and dressed and treated the wound to prevent infection—but at one point, he accidentally sprayed his disinfectant in the displeased queen’s face. (8) Lister would later joke to his medical students, ‘Gentlemen, I am the only man who has ever stuck a knife into the queen!’ (8) He was uninterested in social success or financial reward. (11) His work was an inspiration to others. (6) Joseph Lawrence, a chemist living in Missouri, developed an alcohol-based formula for an antiseptic mouthwash in 1879 that he named ‘Listerine’ in his honour. (6)


Lister was almost worshipped by those who worked with him, but he was shy and reserved and it seems that few people ever knew him well. (5) He is known as the ‘father of modern surgery’. (2) [OR] ‘of antiseptic surgery’. (3) Antisepsis became a basic principle for the development of surgery. (7) It increased the safety of operations and laid the foundations for all of the subsequent advances in surgery. (6,10) [OR] Although Lister’s antiseptic method was soon replaced by the use of asepsis (keeping the site of the operation and the instruments used free from germs), his work represented the first successful application of Pasteur’s theory to surgery and marked the beginning of a new era. (7,10) His principle, that bacteria must never gain entry to an operation wound, remains the basis of surgery to this day, (6,11) saving countless lives. (6) Amputations became less frequent, as did death from infections. (7) Now new operations could be planned and executed safely. (7) Joseph Lister remains an inspiration for surgeons today. (10)


  2. Small
  13. Big


(3) and (9) show a family resemblance. So do (10) and (8)

Mnemonic LISTER

L LORD; LANCET; LAD Greenlees’ compound fracture


S SMELLY SEWERS of Carlisle; SHOULDER of a giant (Pasteur); SEPSIS and antisepsis; SHARPELY recommended SYME in SCOTLAND; SMITH’s patella

T TAR produced Carbolic Acid. TUBES in the Queen. TOO critical of London. TEAM player in Glasgow?


E EDUCATION still private; EDINBURGH & Glasgow; EXCLUSION of women;

R RELIGION (access to uni, inspiration, but not over science); ROYAL patients; ROYAL Society (Dad and him)

1 Absurd, because he could not have been a surgeon without it.

2 He obviously did publish them.

3 Eh?


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