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Joseph Lister 1868 Lecture on Antisepsis


Pictured here is the minute book of the Glasgow Medico-Chirurgical Society. In this meeting, Joseph Lister presented his method of dressing wounds with carbolic acid, which was key to his work in antisepsis. This lecture took place in the Faculty Hall, now the College's Princess Alexandera room.

"An extra meeting of the Society was held this evening, and the President occupied the chair.

The minutes of last meeting were read and approved.
Mr Lister gave a lengthened exposition of the atmospheric germ theory of putrefaction, and illustrated it by the exhibition of M. Pasteur’s experiment with flasks containing urine.

He next directed attention to the employment of Carbolic acid for the destruction of the germs presumed to exist in the air, and which Mr Lister supposed to be the exciting cause of putrefaction in wounds; and for the details of a case in which a young man sustained an incised wound of left side of thorax, with penetration through the diaphragm and protrusion of omentum through the wound externally.

The protruding portion of omentum was cut off; and although the left pleural cavity was so distended with air and haemorrhage as to cause displacement of the heart to the right side of the chest, the young man made a perfect recovery under the Carbolic acid dressings.
Mr L then described the effects of a ligature applied on the antiseptic system to the carotid of a horse, and showed the portion of the artery, and the superjacent skin, as well as the ligature, all of which had been removed from the horse, which had died from some disease unconnected with the operation, 13 days after.
He also narrated a case of ligature of the external iliac artery by the same method, and the history of a case of necrosis of the tibia, in which some of the dead bone had come away, but was presumed to have been absorbed.

The mode of dressing wounds with Carbolic acid was next described; the part of Carbolic acid in 20 of water being recommended for an internal application; and for external dressing, after experimenting with a number of different substances, Mr Lister had arrived at the conclusion that emplastrum plumbi with a fourth of its weight of bees wax and impregnated with Carbolic acid is the most suitable. The strength of the dressing ought however in all cases to be regulated by the nature of the wound.

A discussion following, was, chiefly owing to the late hour, confined principally to the cause of putrefaction in wounds, and the theory which had been advanced by Mr Lister to account for the antiseptic properties of the Carbolic acid."


c. 1868

Joseph Lister 1868 Lecture on Antisepsis


Joseph Lister 1868 Lecture on Antisepsis



“Joseph Lister 1868 Lecture on Antisepsis,” Heritage, accessed March 4, 2024,