Joseph Lister

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Scientific Biographies

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Joseph Lister

Lister’s first clue as to the cause of infection came from comparing patients who had simple fractures with those who had compound fractures. Simple fractures do not involve an external wound. These patients had their bones set and placed in a cast, and they recovered. Compound fractures are those where the broken bone pierces the skin and is exposed to the air. More than half of these patients died. Lister reasoned that somehow the infection must enter the wound from the outside.

Long ago, doctors and nurses did not wash their hands at work.They did not know about germs.People got very sick after operations because of germs.Joseph Lister learned that germs did not live where things were clean.He made doctors wear gloves.

Joseph ListerThe father of antiseptics

Lister tested carbolic acid, or phenol, which was used to remove the smell from sewage. Lister first sprayed and found a huge reduction of gangrene and wounds no longer became to septic.

Back then, medical staff did not wash their hands and wounds commonly became nfected. Gangrene was often found as the patients flesh would become rotten.

In his later years, Lister was given many prestigious positions by the scientific community in recognition of his great contribution to medicine.. In 1891, Lister had helped to establish the British Institute of Preventative Medicine. In 1903, this was renamed the Lister Institute in his honour.


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