Baron Joseph Lister, MD
1827 - 1912

Baron Joseph Lister, MD was born in Upton, Essex, England on April 5, 1827. He graduated from the University of London in 1852 and began a surgical career in Edinburgh.

Few major advancements in the field of surgery can be considered as important as the work of Dr. Lister—the application of germ cell theory to the surgical arena. In the early 1800s, it was asserted that sepsis was caused by exposing moist body tissue to oxygen. Plasters and resins were used to cover wounds and keep air out. Because sepsis was so common, amputation was a primary means of dealing with serious injuries. Rather than risk death from infection, surgeons would simply remove the wounded limb. However, it was Lister who would ultimately theorize that sepsis in wounds was a form of decomposition, not caused by bad air alone and, ultimately, a treatable condition.

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