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Top 10 Scottish Inventors.

Biography of Joseph Lister Inventor of Antiseptic

Inventor: Joseph Lister

Most Famous Invention: Antiseptic


            Joseph Lister, Ist Barron Lister as he later became known, was born April 5, 1827 into the home of a family of Quakers.  His father was Joseph Jackson Lister, well known for the improvements which he developed for the compound microscope.

          Young Joseph’s parents immediately decided that he would enter into some aspect of the field of medicine so from the very beginning of his education, this goal was kept in mind and his educational pursuits chosen by his parents and teachers accordingly.

          As a young student in the lower grades, Joseph Lister received an extraordinary amount of tutelage in both German and French.  As a result he became quite fluent in both languages.  These languages were considered to be the leading languages of medical research at the time.

          As he advanced out of the primary classes, Joseph Lister attended the Grove House School, where he studied mathematics, natural science and languages. 


Joseph Lister

Joseph Lister

          As a young adult, Joseph Lister went to the University of London where he first majored in the arts but then acceded to his parents wishes and ended up graduating with an honors degree in medicine and went on to attend the Royal College of Surgeons.

          Up until the time when Lister began to promote the use of carbolic acid to sterilize surgical instruments, it was debatable which was the safest, to live with the ailment and hope to get better or to be operated on.          

          As the practice of sterilizing surgical instruments began to be used more and more, the death rate which one may attribute to either the ailment itself or to the surgery with unspecialized instruments began to go down.

          Lister studied medicine as an assistant to Dr. James Skyme at the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.  It was while serving in this capacity that he met and fell in love with Dr. Skyme’s daughter Agnes, whom he later married.

          Agnes not only loved Lister but she shared his love of medicine as well and became not only his partner in life but his partner in the practice of medicine as well.

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