Who is Joseph Lister, and what did he do?


Joseph Lister is known as a pioneer in modern antiseptic practices. In 1885, convinced that germs were the primary cause of infection, Lister expounded upon Louis Pasteur's work on pasteurization and theorized that wounds "fermented" much in the same way that milk ferments. Lister conducted his earliest work on patients who had compound fractures, since the alternative was amputation if his treatment was unsuccessful.

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Lister used carbolic acid compounds as an antiseptic. Although the standard belief at the time was that wounds became infected due to the spread of dangerous gas through the air, Lister suspected that something in the wounds themselves was actually causing infection, and experimented with various treatments, ultimately cutting mortality rates significantly. He further theorized that hospital instruments should be disinfected to prevent the spread of germs from patient to patient. Lister's work in antiseptics and sanitization eventually led to the standardized decontamination practices that hospitals and healthcare facilities use today. Because his work led to the possibility of open cavity surgery, some have called him the "father of modern surgery."

Listerine, an antiseptic originally used as a disinfectant before surgery, gets its name from this surgical pioneer.

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