Baron Joseph Lister (1827-1912) was a pioneer of antiseptic surgery. He was Professor of Surgery at Glasgow University 1860-69 and, during this time he introduced the use of carbolic acid to disinfect surgical instruments in cases of compound fracture. He became a peer in 1883 and Lister House halls of residence (now demolished) were named after him.

 

Lister was born in London and studied medicine at University College London. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and moved to Edinburgh to study under James Syme, a renowned surgeon. He married Syme’s eldest daughter, Agnes, and at the age of 33 he was appointed Regius Professor of Surgery at Glasgow University. It was after this that he read the papers of Louis Pasteur, the French biologist and micro biologist. Lister began applying carbolic compounds as an antiseptic to surgical wounds. Although the results were positive, he received much scepticism and outright opposition from some of his colleagues. His methods were adopted in Germany, USA and France before Great Britain at last followed suit. In 1877 he returned to London at the age of 50 to become Professor of Clinical Surgery at King’s College.

 

He has been described as “the father of modern Surgery” and “the greatest surgical benefactor to mankind”. Queen Victoria made him a baronet in1883 and he was given a full peerage in 1897, designated Lord Lister of Lyme Regis.

 

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Joseph Lister treats James Greenlees