Monday, April 05, 2010


The bearded fellow above is one Joseph Lister born this day 1827 in Essex, England. Born into a prosperous Quaker family, he attended the University of London (it being one of the few places that accepted Quakers), and graduated with a degree in Medicine. He then entered the college of surgeons, and it was in 1867 that he made the discovery that makes him our hero of the day. That discovery even put his name into the common lexicon, it was the fact that carbolic acid could be used as an antiseptic in surgery. Before the brilliant idea hit Lister, the "bad air" theory was prevalent in hospitals, and Lister would help to prove that bad air was an effect of infections rather than the cause. He recommended that surgeons wash their hands after each surgery (few did so, going from one surgery straight to the next) in a solution of 5% carbolic acid. He also suggested washing the instruments in the same solution, seems common sense today, but back then the idea was a shocker, and sometimes the simplest ideas are the hardest to have. His surgery techniques have been credited with saving the King of England at the time Edward VII's life when he had to have his appendix removed. The mouthwash that millions of use daily was not formulated by him, but was named in his honour. So next time you are feeling the burn of that particular product give thanks to Joseph Lister (April 5th, 1827-February 10th, 1912, at the age of 84), you are my (223rd) hero of the day.

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