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Microbiology Pioneers:

       Joseph Lister (1827-1912)


       In 1856, Lister began researching blood coagulation with assistance from his new bride. In 1857, he concluded that “the tissues of the affected parts have experienced to a proportionate extent a temporary impairment of functional activity or vital energy” ("The Father of..."). He began studying compound fractures which is when the skin is broken and the bone is exposed. During his time, the mortality rate for compound fractures was devastatingly high at 45 % ("Joseph Lister"). With the findings of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch, Lister hypothesized that Carbolic Acid (a solution used to remove odors from sewage) would keep infections free from microbes that exacerbate the infection. He applied his hypothesis to the case of a young boy to find that the wound did not discharge pus after surgery ("The Father of..."). In 1867, after applying his hypothesis to a series of cases and making modifications, he wrote an essay about Carbolic acid to sterilize surgical instruments and clean wounds called "On a New Method of Treating Compound Fracture, Abcess, Etc." ("The Father of..."). In his essay he also mentioned that the removal of abcesses, a surgery from that time was of unnecessary risk. The mortality rates of Lister’s experiments were extremely low and he gained great recognition for his findings. As the Chair of Clinical Surgery in Edinberg, he promoted and regulated cleanliness ("The Father of..."). Because of him, the mortality rate fell to 15% ("Joseph Lister").

 How does this affect me?

If it weren’t for Joseph Lister’s findings in keeping sterile during and after surgery, only about half of the surgical patients today would survive their surgery. I had never had surgery, but both my parents have had surgery. I probably would not have my parents with me today if it weren’t for Lister’s contributions to medicine and science. Thanks to Lister, I can use Listerine antiseptic mouthwash!

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    - Antony Leeuwenhoek

    - Robert Hooke

    - Edward Jenner

    - Louis Pasteur

    - Joseph Lister

    - Robert Koch

    - Walter Reed

    - Paul Ehrlich

    - Alexander Fleming

    - Kary Mullis