May 9, 2011

Joseph Lister "Father of Modern Antisepsis"

written by: Rosa Morgan

Lister crowded into the operating theater with the other medical students. It was seven in the morning at Royal College of Surgeons and the scheduled amputation was routine. After the patient was mercifully anesthetized with chloroform, the surgeon began hacking the leg off.
"This young man was in the prime of life when he fell from his horse."

Lister knew all too well the probable sequence of events that followed; compound fracture, sepsis, gangrene, amputation, and most likely death.

A fellow student jabbed Lister teasingly, "You look faint. Is the blood puddling beneath the surgeon's feet getting to you?"
Lister shot back. "It's just if certain protocol was followed, he might be saved."

"What protocol?"

"Have you heard of Pasteur's germ theory?

"Micro-organisms?" the other man shot back. "All quackery! Everyone knows bad air causes infection."

Lister pointed out, "The surgeon has come straight from home, still wearing his frock coat. He's not washed his hands or the instruments. And I warrant his suture needle has been stuck in his lapel and is covered in blood from previous surgeries."

Joseph Lister went on to develop the use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic. He was the second man to operate on a brain tumor, he repaired kneecaps with wire and improved mastectomy techniques.

Lister inspired Robert Wood Johnson, of Johnson & Johnson, to create the first sterile surgical dressings. Dr. Joseph Lawrence developed Listerine, naming it after Joseph Lister.

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