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Joseph Lister

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Joseph Lister was a smart man, that by 24 had already graduated from medical school. Lister did not let the negative feedback stop him. Lister was a level-headed man that knew if he could keep publishing his colleagues would soon have to start scratching their head and listening. Lister saw what other smart men around them were discovering, and he used their ideas to build his own. All for the common good of helping those who were dying from something that could not be seen or heard. Lister used the journals of others, which is why I assume he always published his own paper. So, we as a society could reap the benefit of their hard work and long hours. The proof is in the history. Look at where we are now with surgical aseptic techniques. We are far more technically advanced, but it is due to people like Lister who kept fighting, kept looking for the answers to even the hardest questions.


Joseph Lister was born in 1827. At the age of 17 he was attending school at the University College, London. In 1848 he decided to attend medical school at University College, London. In 1852 Lister earned his bachelor of medicine degree, then began his surgical internship at the school’s infirmary. During his time at the infirmary, Lister became interested in the process of wound inflammation and healing, and would use a microscope in the examination of such wounds. That was not the standard of practice in at that time. “Lister still felt that wound suppuration resulted from agents in the air, and he felt that to stop wound infections he must destroy these agents that had gained access to the wound and also must prevent subsequent invasion into a healing wound.” (Francoeur p.130) In 1865 the civil war in America had just ended, and Lister was still seeing soldiers dyeing of infection. Lister was introduced to another scientist named Louis Pasteur who was doing experiments with fermentation wear microbes in the air could fall into a media and cause fermentation. “Lister reasoned that fermentation was similar to wound suppuration and perhaps these microbes were responsible for wound suppuration.” (Francoeur p.130) With that new knowledge Lister came up with a theory that if you applied carbolic acid it would keep the wound from becoming septic. In 1877 a German doctor named Robert Koch discovered what he named Bacillus anthrax is sheep’s blood and the Bacillus anthrax could be used to infect other sheep. Which gave lister prof that there were spores in the air, which then gave rise and backing to Lister with other doctors that the spore was living on the skin of the patient, the doctor’s hands, and even the surgical equipment being used. “Dr. Schimmelbusch demonstrated that heating the surgical instruments would kill any microbes present.” (Francoeur p. 131)

Experiments and result:

Lister started out testing his theory. He would wrap the wounds with rags soaked in carbolic acid then seal them with tin foil. Which took a lot of time and the carbolic acid would damage the tissue of the injured. Lister preformed the first surgery with aseptic techniques on a patient with the drainage of a psoas abscess, an operation that few had chances of surviving with or without surgery. But Lister’s patient survived and recovered without sepsis. “Lister stated “previous to its introduction, the 2 large wards in which most of my cases of accident



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