Joseph Lister Fact File Biography: Lifespan: 1827 – 1912 *** Full Name: Joseph Lister, 1st Baron Lister *** Occupation: British Surgeon and Pioneer of Antiseptic Surgery *** Date of Birth: Joseph Lister was born on April 5th 1827 *** Place of Birth: Joseph Lister was born in West Hampton, Essex in England *** Family background: His father was Joseph Jackson Lister and his mother was Isabella Harris. His father was from a family of prosperous Quakers *** Early life and childhood: He grew up with his family *** Education: Joseph Lister attended Grove House School in Tottenham, before attending University College in London ***
Joseph Lister Fact 1: Joseph Lister was born on April 5th 1827 and during the 19th century period in history when significant developments were made in biology, science, physics, medicine and technology.
Joseph Lister Fact 2: At this time the only University willing to accept Quakers was the University College. He began by studying botany and attained his Arts degree and went on to register as a medical student and proceeded to graduate with honors as Bachelor of Medicine. Joseph Lister then enrolled at the Royal College of Surgeons.
Joseph Lister Fact 3: By 1854 he had travelled to Scotland and became first assistant as well as a friend to James Syme, a surgeon at the University of Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
Joseph Lister Fact 4: Lister became the first surgeon to champion carbolic acid as an antiseptic and thereafter it was widely used in surgical procedures.
Joseph Lister Fact 5: Joseph Lister came upon the idea of using carbolic acid as it was used to clear the smell of sewage from fields and the livestock that grazed thereafter showed no ill effects.
Joseph Lister Fact 6: Around this time he left the Quakers and became a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Joseph Lister married Agnes Syme and they spent their honeymoon travelling around France and Germany visiting various hospitals and universities.
Joseph Lister Fact 7: By the time the couple returned home, Agnes had become extremely interested in Lister's work and would become his laboratory partner from then on.
Joseph Lister Fact 8: In Lister’s time infection was thought to be spread by bad air and so wards were given a daily airing. A surgeon never thought to clean his hands before touching any patient let alone between patients. Often even their surgical coats were carry the blood stains of more than one donor and was seen as a sign of experience.
Joseph Lister Fact 9: While working at the University of Glasgow as a professor, Lister took note of paper published by Louis Pasteur, a French chemist who brought to attention the food spoilage and fermentation that occurred under anaerobic conditions when micro-organisms were present.
Joseph Lister Fact 10: With this in mind Lister began to conduct his own experiments and found that two of the suggested methods of Pasteur were not suitable ones for the human body and began his research into the third method.
Joseph Lister Fact 11: Having experimented with the cleaning of surgical instruments and the huge reduction in cases of gangrene Joseph Lister then tested his theory on a young child who had sustained a compound fracture to his leg. He applied a piece of carbolic dipped lint to the child’s wound and found in a matter of days there was no sign of infection after six weeks the broken bone had fused together and was healing nicely.
Joseph Lister Fact 12: He immediately published his findings in The Lancet from March 1867 over a series of six weeks.
Joseph Lister Fact 13: Joseph Lister returned to the University of Edinburgh to replace Syme as his successor all the while continuing with his experiments to find improvements to his methods.
Joseph Lister Fact 14: All surgeons under his responsibility were told to wear clean gloves and always wash their hands in the prescribed carbolic acid solutions and that all instruments were to be cleaned in the same solution.
Joseph Lister Fact 15: Through his many lectures his theories became more widely spread and used to the extent that surgeons were adopting his methods of cleanliness and infection rates were falling rapidly.
Joseph Lister Fact 16: Joseph Lister was also responsible for the change in material of the handles of the surgical instruments and that pores natural materials should no longer be used.Joseph Lister Fact 17: He would move from Scotland to London to attend King’s College Hospital.
Joseph Lister Fact 18: In 1893 after Agnes died while they were on one of their few holidays, Joseph Lister went into retirement, he no longer had the will or drive to continue with his work.
Joseph Lister Fact 19: Although he had given up his practice and had also suffered a stroke, he still from time to time appeared in public and two days prior to his coronation in August of 1902 Edward VII developed appendicitis and Lister was consulted on the correct methods of antiseptic use. After the King told Lister “I know that if it had not been for you and your work, I wouldn’t be sitting here today.”
Joseph Lister Fact 20: Joseph Lister died in his country home in Walmer on February 10th 1912 at eighty four years of age. His body was laid to rest at West Hampstead Cemetery in London.
Joseph Lister Influence & Legacy: In 2012, on the one hundredth anniversary of his death he was considered “the father of modern surgery” by the majority of those in the medical field and is responsible for incalculable lives saved through his discovery.
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