Dr. Joseph Lister
Dr. Lister (1827-1912) was a British doctor who dramatically changed the practice of medicine, saving millions of lives then and now.
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Dr. Lister advocated the research of French microbiologist Louis Pasteur who revolutionized the awareness and killing of germs.
For centuries, into the mid 1860's, many patients after surgery suffered from infection, often dying because unbeknownst to surgeons, unsanitary conditions sickened patients.
Shortly after childbirth, many women and often their babies died of postpartum infections as well.
Surgeons were unaware of germs and commonly conducted surgical procedures without washing their hands or sanitizing their operating rooms.
Many surgeons proudly wore stained surgical gowns to show their extensive experience and they referred to the "good old surgical stink."
Yet the idea that doctors might be making their patients sick was considered so outlandish, that at first Dr. Lister was widely ridiculed.
But Dr. Lister persisted and introduced the medical profession to "antiseptic" surgeries in which doctors washed their hands before and after surgeries, wore clean gowns, clean gloves, and cleansed their operating rooms and instruments.
In 1869, Dr. Lister became Professor of Surgery at the University of Edinburgh where he taught his students the crucial practice of cleanliness.
And as post-surgical infections dropped sharply, the results spoke for themselves.
As Dr. Lister's fame spread, many people were anxious to learn his "germ theory of disease" a "theory" which influenced so many surgeons and saved so many lives.
In 1902, Edward Vll became ill with appendicitis just two days before his coronation as King of England. At that time, appendectomy patients faced a high mortality rate from post-operative infection.
The King's surgeons would not operate without first consulting with Dr. Lister to learn the latest antiseptic surgical techniques, techniques which they followed precisely.
The King's surgery was a success, and he later told Dr. Lister, "I know that if it had not been for you and your work, I wouldn't be sitting here today."
You and I and our loved ones might not be here if those generations before us had not been the fortunate recipients of Dr. Lister's life saving work.