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Joseph Lister and the Antiseptic Principle

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Joseph Lister and the Antiseptic Principle


"Hi! I'm Kirsty from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and today I want to talk to you about Joseph Lister.

Some of you might have heard of Joseph Lister before, but mainly link him to the cities of Edinburgh and London. But Joseph Lister has a really important story that is linked to Glasgow. 

Joseph Lister was the man behind the principle of antisepsis. Antisepsis is the process of getting rid of germs in the surgical environment. A man named Semmelweis in Austria was the first to actually start promoting hygiene in a hospital. So he got a lot of his colleagues and a lot of the students that he was teaching to wash their hands. This was to prevent something called Infection.

Lister was aware of this and he was also aware of the work of Louis Pasteur, a French chemist who was looking into the germ theory. Lister worked at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in the 1860s. His patients were dying from blood poisoning from infection, so he thought 'why don't I apply carbolic acid to the wounds of my patients to dress the wounds and see if that stops an infection?'

A young boy by the name of James Greenlees was admitted to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. He had an open fracture in his tibia, so Lister set the bone and he treated it, but he dressed the wound with carbolic acid. The boy made a full recovery- he did not get an infection. This was the first case of the antiseptic principle. He then went on to publish several other cases in 'The Lancet', proving that the antiseptic principle could save lives."