Medical Pioneer. He received international notoriety as a British physician for his pioneer study of germs and was known as “Father of Antiseptics." He was also a pioneer in preventative medicine. He graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine degree from London University, and trained at the Royal College of Physicians graduating with honors in 1852. The same year, he was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and house surgeon at University College Hospital. As surgeon in Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1856, he was concerned with the number of deaths from surgeries. Up to 50% of the patients on the male accident ward with amputations died of infection. Many operations resulted in inflammation and gangrene. Studying the germ theory of Louis Pasteur, Lister began to speculate that the foul odors in the operating rooms and hospital in general, were the result of infected and decaying flesh. He read that the town of Carlisle in England used carbolic acid to substantially lessen the odor of its sewage before it was discharged into the Eden River. He theorized that the carbolic acid neutralized the odor by killing the bacteria. He began treating bandages, wounds, instruments, and operating rooms with a solution of carbolic acid. He used the same solution to require surgeons and assistants to wash their hands. In this time period, no gloves were used during a surgical procedure. Between 1865 and 1869, the surgical mortality rate drop to 15% on the male accident ward. He traveled to Germany and the United States studying and sharing his theories on infection control. He later began using the less harsh and less corrosive boracic acid. Many rejected his theory, but on October 28, 1877 he, as the chairman of Clinical Surgery at King's College, performed a repair of a fractured patella by opening the skin and wiring the bone. The surgery was successful and changed the world's opinion of his method of preventing infection in an operative wound. He worked with Charles Goodyear to create surgical gloves. His antiseptic techniques reduced deaths dramatically, hence his principle that bacteria can never enter an operative wound still remain the basis of modern surgery. Born into a Quaker household, his father, J. J. Lister, was elected a fellow to the Royal Society for his work with microscopes leading to the modern achromatic microscope. By an early age he knew he wanted to be a surgeon and was taught basis sciences by his father. As the years passed, he received numerous honors, yet he was a quiet, humble and religious man. He was created a baronet in 1883, he was made Baron Lister of Lyme Regis in 1897, and appointed as one of the original twelve of the Order of Merit in 1902. He married Agnes Syne, the daughter of noted Scottish surgeon, Dr. James Syme, but had no children. He never wrote a book but his papers were published in “The Collected Papers of Joseph Baron Lister”, 2 Vol, 1909.
Bio by: rjschatz
Agnes Syme Lister
Gravesite Details English Heritage Listed Monument