Joseph Lister Facts

Joseph Lister was a British surgeon who made surgery safer for patients by introducing sterilization techniques.

Here are some facts about Jospeh Lister:

  • Joseph Lister studied at the University of London and he entered the Royal College of Surgeons when he was 26.

  • Lister worked as a professor of surgery at universities in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.
  • His greatest contribution to medicine was to promote the use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic. Lister was heavily influenced by Louis Pasteur‘s work on bacteria. After studying Pasteur’s findings, Lister soon realised that severe changes needed to happen to prevent so many people dying after surgery, due to infection. Traditionally, surgeons wore dirty aprons, surgical instruments were unclean and surgeons didn’t even wash their hands before carrying out operations. Lister tested what would happen if the surgical instruments and bandages were treated with carbolic acid, and he was pleased to see that infection was significantly reduced.
  • By 1879 Lister’s ideas had been accepted by most hospitals in Britain. Carbolic acid was used on bandages and was even sprayed into the air during operations to kill bacteria and reduce the risk of the wound becoming infected.
  • Lister also made other contributions to medicine. He was the second man in England to operate on a brain tumor, and he worked out a method of repairing kneecaps with metal wire.
  • In 1897, he was made Baron Lister of Lyme Regis.
  • In 1901, although he had retired as a surgeon, he was asked to give advice about antiseptics and sterilization when Edward VII had his appendix removed.
  • Lister died in 1912, aged 84.

Joseph Lister

Find out about some of the other famous Victorians by clicking here.