JOSEPH LISTER (1827-1912)

Joseph Lister, an English surgeon is the father of antiseptic surgery. He was aware of Semmelweis’s work and together with Pasteur realized the true nature of disease cause, transmission and prevention. Lister sought for ways to prevent microorganisms from infecting wounds because deaths resulting from post-surgery infections as at the time was alarming and accounted for more than 40% of the total deaths.

This led him to develop a system of surgery which was designed to prevent the entry of microorganisms into wounds. He used dilute solution of phenol/carbolic acid to soak surgical dressings, and he also performed surgery only under or after a spray of disinfectant to prevent airborne infections.

After its application in medical practice, Lister’s patients had fewer post-operative infections and this provided indirect evidence that microorganisms were the causative agents of human disease. His published work transformed the practice of surgery, and his experiments on this area is the origin of the present day aseptic technique used to prevent infections and their spread in clinical practices worldwide.

In addition, Lister also carried out works on the lactic acid fermentation of milk, in which he demonstrated the specific cause of milk souring. He named the microorganism responsible for causing the souring of milk as Bacterium lactis.


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