) was a prominent physician and medical pioneer who promoted the idea of sterile surgery while working at the Glasgow
Infirmary. Infection was the principal cause of death after surgery, and he had decided to try the use of chemical agents to prevent this. Carbolic acid (phenol
) had been in use as a means of deodorising sewage, so Lister tested the results of spraying instruments, the surgical incisions, and dressings with a solution of carbolic acid. This greatly reduced the death rate from post-operative infections. He first published a series of articles on the
Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery
describing this procedure on March 16
in the journal The Lancet
Continual exposure to phenol could be quite unpleasant, however, and as the germ theory of disease became more widely accepted, it was realised that infection could be better avoided by preventing bacteria from getting into wounds in the first place: the rise of sterile surgery. Some consider Lister the father of modern antisepsis.
Listerine mouthwash is named after him.
A British Institution of Preventive Medicine, previously named after Edward Jenner was renamed in 1899 in honour of Lister.
He credited Ignaz Semmelweis for earlier work in antiseptic treatment: "Without Semmelweis, my achievements would be nothing."  (http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi622.htm)
All Wikipedia text
is available under the
terms of the GNU Free Documentation License