Joseph Lister, 1st Baron Lister

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Joseph Lister, 1st Baron Lister OM, FRS , PC (5 April 1827 – 10 February 1912), known as Sir Joseph Lister, Bt., between 1883 and 1897, was a British surgeon and a pioneer of antiseptic surgery, who promoted the idea of sterile surgery while working at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Lister successfully introduced carbolic acid (now known as phenol) to sterilise surgical instruments and to clean wounds, which led to reducing post-operative infections and made surgery safer for patients.


Early life

Lister came from a prosperous Quaker home in Upton, Essex, a son of Joseph Jackson Lister, the pioneer of the compound microscope.

At Quaker schools he became fluent in French and German, which were also the leading languages of medical research.[1] As a teenager Lister attended Grove House School Tottenham, studying mathematics, natural science, and languages.He attended the University of London, one of only a few institutions which were open to Quakers at that time. He initially studied the Arts, but graduated with honours as Bachelor of Medicine and entered the Royal College of Surgeons at the age of 26. In 1854, Lister became both first assistant to and friend of surgeon James Syme at the University of Edinburgh , Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in Scotland. In 1867, Lister discovered the use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic, such that it became the first widely used antiseptic in surgery. He subsequently left the Quakers, joined the Scottish Episcopal Church and eventually married Syme's daughter Agnes.[2] On their honeymoon, they spent 3 months visiting leading medical institutes (hospitals and universities) in France and Germany. By this time Agnes was enamoured of medical research, and was Lister's partner in the laboratory for the rest of her life.

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