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Joseph Lister: Father of Modern Antiseptic Surgery?

Joseph Lister (1827-1912) was a British Medical Scientist, Surgeon, founder of Antiseptic Surgery, Pioneer in preventive medicines, and experimental Pathologist. The foundation of modern infection control was laid by Lister’s antisepsis principles.

Time and Place of birth

Joseph Lister was born on 5 April 1827, in Uptown House, Newham, England.

Joseph Lister Early life

Joseph Lister was from a prosperous family, his father was a wine merchant and an amateur physicist Joseph Jackson. While Lister was young he attended the private Benjamin Abbott’s Isaac Brown Academy, also a private Quaker School.

For his higher education, he went to the Grove high School in Tottenham where he studied mathematics, natural science, and language.

From a very early age, Lister was encouraged by his father and he got interested in natural history and he used to examine small fish, animals, and osteology using his father’s microscope. And with this Lister got determined to become a surgeon and his father prepared him to go into scientific research.

Lister attended the non-sectarian University College London Medical School as after he finished his school he was unable to go to the University of Oxford or Cambridge due to religious tests. In the year 1847, he graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Arts with honors in botany and classics.

In 1848 he registered as a medical student and was active in the Debating Society University and Medical Society Hospital.


Joseph Lister graduated in Medical in the year 1852, in the following year at the Royal College of Surgeons Lister passed the examination for the fellowship.

After completing his medical education he spent a whole month at Edinburgh for the medical practice of James Syme and also went to Europe to visit medical schools.

Lister’s first Operation

On 24 June 1851 Lister performed his first operation on Julia Sulivan, a woman who was stabbed by her husband.

While operating Lister found an eight inches long coil of intestine sticking around the lower abdomen of the woman. Blood was cleaned and it was placed back into the patient’s body.

In 1855 Lister got engaged to Agnes Syme and soon left the Quaker’s and joined St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh and Lister got married to Agnes Syme on 23 April 1856.

Lister also gave his first lecture on “Principles and Practice of Surgery” at the 4 high schoolyards in 1855.

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Education and Career

Joseph Lister attended the private Benjamin Abbott’s Isaac Brown Academy and then went to Grove high School in Tottenham for his higher studies. For his Bachelor’s Lister attended the non-sectarian University College London Medical School and in 1847 he graduated with a degree in BA honors in Botany and Classics.

In Lister’s career he conducted some Physiological experiments in the year 1853 and 1859 he kept giving his discussions on his observations, and these experiments were published in 11 papers in the years 1857-1859. He was appointed in the University of Glasgow as the Regius professor of surgery.

Joseph Lister Contribution in Science

Joseph Lister’s contribution to science has been very helpful in medical history.

The Antiseptic System

In the year 1865 Lister was finally able to achieve his first success when he disinfected a compound with the full strength of carbolic acid. He dipped a piece of floss in the carbolic acid onto an eleven-year-old boy’s wound who had a fracture on his leg.

Lister after four days reopened the pad and found out that there was no infection developed, and after a total of six weeks Lister was surprised to discover that the boy’s bones were combined, without any discharge like pus.

As more people understood the theory of germ disease, they became aware of how infections and bacteria can be avoided by getting into the wounds by using the 5% Carbolic Acid before and after the operations, by washing the instruments with the same. This led to the discovery of Aseptic Surgery.

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Lister’s achievement in Science

In the year 1867, he published his discovery in the Lancet in the form of six articles. In 1869 Lister left Glasgow University and came back to Edinburgh and was the Professor of Surgery at the Edinburgh University and continued improving antisepsis and asepsis. With this discovery, he gained a lot of fame, and more than 400 people used to come to listen to his lecture.

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Interesting facts

  • Joseph Lister’s first choice was to become a priest instead of becoming a Doctor.
  • Joseph Lister became President of the Clinical Society of London after he moved to London.
  • Joseph Lister and his wife Agnes went on their honeymoon at medical institutes and he made his wife his lab partner as well.
  • Under Lister’s name is the prestigious honor for a surgeon, The Lister Medal.
Joseph Lister Interesting facts By vedic maths school


Joseph Lister died at the age of 84 on 10 February 1912, in Walmer, United Kingdom. He was buried at the Hampstead Cemetery in London. He suffered from Pneumonia and died.

Books published

  • In the year 1909, The Collected Papers of Joseph Baron Lister
  • In the year 1907, The Third Huxley Lecture
  • Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery
  • In the year 1821, An Historic Narrative of the Life of Joseph Lister
  • Two Lives During the English Civil War

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Awards and Medals

  • The Royal Medal, in 1880
  • The Albert Medal, in 1902
  • The Copley Medal, in 1902
  • Cameron Prize for Therapeutics, in 1890


I’m a believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.
Joseph Lister

If a man cannot take the advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to him, what is he to do then, or what is he good for?
Joseph Lister

I trust I may be enabled in the treatment of patients to always act with the help of a single eye for their good.
Joseph Lister

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What did Joseph Lister discover?

Joseph Lister discovered the way of preventing wounds to be infected with bacteria before and after the surgery by using Carbolic Acid and gave the name Antiseptic Surgery.

When was Joseph Lister born?

Joseph Lister was born on 5 April 1827 in Newham, England.

Did Joseph Lister win a Nobel Prize?

Joseph Lister didn’t win any Nobel prize. But he did win the Royal Medal, The Albert Medal, The Copley Medal.

When did Joseph Lister die?

Joseph Lister died in Walmer, the U.K. on 10 February 1912 due to Pneumonia.

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Joseph Lister was a man who introduced Carbolic acid with which the danger of bacteria getting onto a person’s wound was decreased and he was a man with a kind heart who treated his patients very kindly and his contribution towards science has made a life in medicine easy.

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