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Joseph Lister

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The Lord Lister

Joseph Lister 1902.jpg
Photograph of Lister in 1902
President of the Royal Society
In office
Preceded byThe Lord Kelvin
Succeeded bySir William Huggins
Personal details
Born(1827-04-05)5 April 1827
Upton House, West Ham, England
Died10 February 1912(1912-02-10) (aged 84)
Walmer, Kent, England
Spouse(s)Agnes Lister (nee Syme)
Joseph Lister
InstitutionsKing's College London
University of Glasgow
University of Edinburgh
University College London
Alma materUniversity College London
Known forSurgical sterile techniques
Notable awardsRoyal Medal (1880)
Albert Medal (1894)
Copley Medal (1902)
Lister's carbolic steam spray apparatus, Hunterian Museum, Glasgow

Joseph Lister, 1st Baron Lister, (5 April 1827 – 10 February 1912) was a British surgeon and a pioneer of antiseptic surgery.[1][2]

He promoted the idea of sterile surgery while working at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Lister successfully introduced carbolic acid (phenol) to sterilise surgical instruments and to clean wounds.

Applying Louis Pasteur's advances in microbiology, Lister championed the use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic, so that it became the first widely used antiseptic in surgery.

He knew it was used to ease the stench from fields irrigated with sewage waste. He thought it was safe because fields treated with carbolic acid had no ill-effects on the livestock that grazed on them.

Lister's work led to a reduction in post-operative infections (infections after an operation). This made surgery safer for patients. So he became known as the "father of modern surgery".[3]


  1. Cartwright, Frederick F. "Joseph Lister". Encyclopædia Britannica.  
  2. Between 1883 and 1897 he was known as Sir Joseph Lister, Bt.
  3. Pitt, Dennis; Aubin, Jean-Michel (2012-10-01). "Joseph Lister: father of modern surgery". Canadian Journal of Surgery 55 (5): E8–E9. doi:10.1503/cjs.007112 . ISSN 0008-428X . PMC 3468637 . PMID 22992425 .