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LISTER, Joseph (1827-1912)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0114 MS0021
Held at: Royal College of Surgeons of England
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Full title: LISTER, Joseph (1827-1912)
Date(s): [1841-1900]
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 6 boxes
Name of creator(s): Lister | Joseph | 1827-1912 | Baron Lister | surgeon
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born in Upton, Essex, 1827; educated at London's University College Hospital, graduating with B.A. and M.B. in 1852; Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, London, 1852; moved to Edinburgh to build on his surgical experience, 1853; elected to vacancies at the Royal Infirmary and at the Royal College of Surgeons; Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, 1855; Professor of Surgery at Glasgow University and a surgeon at the city's Royal Infirmary, 1860; Regius Professor of Surgery at Edinburgh University, 1869; Professor of Surgery at King's College, London, 1877; famous for his work on antiseptics in surgery, continuing the research of Louis Pasteur on air-borne organisms. He realised that some organisms could cause post-operative wound infections such as tetanus, blood-poisoning, and gangrene. He countered this by using carbolic acid soaked in lint or calico around the wound and replaced slow-to-absorb silk stitching with cat-gut stitching which absorbed the carbolic acid more easily. He also experimented with gauze swabs and a disinfectant spray for operating theatres; appointed Serjeant-Surgeon to Queen Victoria, 1878; created a Baron, 1897; died, 1912.
Publications include: Amputation. Anęsthetics (1860); Introductory Lectures delivered in the University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, 1869); Observations on ligatures of arteries on the antiseptic system. From the Lancet, April 3, 1869 (Edmonton & Douglas: Edinburgh, 1869); On the effects of the Antiseptic System of Treatment upon the salubrity of a Surgical Hospital (Edinburgh, 1870); New Designs in plans for the internal arrangement of Back to Back Houses (Leeds, 1907); The third Huxley lecture. delivered before the Medical School of Charing Cross Hospital (1907); The Collected Papers of Joseph, Baron Lister. [With plates.] 2 vol. (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1909); Six papers by Lord Lister (London, 1921); Eight Letters ... to William Sharpey Reprinted from The British Journal of Surgery (J Wright & Sons, Bristol, 1933); A List of the Original Writings of Joseph Lord Lister, O.M. William Richard Lefanu (E & S Livingstone, Edinburgh & London, 1965).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Joseph Lister, [1841-1900], comprising notes and drawings on suppuration, 1851-1907, including experiments on the histology of suppuration at Glasgow, 1865; notes on a new method of treating compound fractures, manuscript draft of the first published paper on his method, [1867]; notes on the preparation of antiseptic catgut, coagulation of the blood, [1862];

papers presented to the College under the terms of Lord Lister's will, including notes on gauze; cases taken by Lister for the Fellowes Clinical medal at University College Hospital whilst a student, [1844-1853]; papers on early stages of inflammation; germ theory of putrefaction, 1875; correspondence on cases; copies of anatomical drawings, 1841-1843; physiological drawings and notes, [1851]; pathological sketches, [1851]; notes on clinical lectures by Jenner, Erichsen, Quain, Walshe and Garrod, 1851-1852; observations on the contractile tissue of the iris, [1853]; introductory lecture at Edinburgh, 1855; notes on external applications, 1855; lecture delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, 1856; observations on early stages of inflammation and nerves, with some sketches, 1857; notes and sketches on the cutaneous pigmentary system of the frog, 1857; summary of experiments on the 'Hemmings' nervous system, 1858; notes and sketches on the minute structure of involuntary muscle fibre, 1858; notes on spontaneous gangrene from arteritis, 1858; coagulation of the blood, 1858-1860; Croomian lecture on Coagulation of the blood, 1863; notes and sketches of horse's blood, 1863; notes, sketches and photographs on excision of the wrist for caries, [1866]; notes on the antiseptic system of treatment in surgery, 1868; sketches and notes illustrating ligature, 1868-1869; notes on the ligature of arteries on the antiseptic system of treatment in surgery, 1871; sketches, notes and lecture on granulations, 1864-1871; drawings for plates on the natural history of bacteria, 1873 and germ theory of putrefaction, [1875]; address at opening of medical session, King's College Hospital, 1877; clinical lecture at King's College Hospital, 1877; sketches of spores and botanical sketches, 1872-1877; notes on the healing of wounds without antiseptic treatment, 1878; on the lactic fermentation, [1878]; notes for address to the Hunterian Society, 1889; observations on division of median and ulnar nerves, 1890; notes on anaesthetics and amputations, [1882];

drawings of fungi, 1872-1877; notes for extra-academical lectures in Glasgow, 1860-1863; address to Glasgow students, 1894; common-place books, by Lister and Lady Lister, on subjects including bactiera, catgut and antiseptic dressings, including drawings; letters from Erichsen and others; signed prescriptions, 1889; letters to and from Lister, 1868-1900, including letters to Sir George Darwin, 1899-1900.

Notes on lectures on surgery delivered by Lister at the University of Glasgow, 1864-1865, transcribed by P H McKellar; notes on lectures on the theory and practice of surgery delivered by Lister at Glasgow, 1863-1864, taken by Dr Robert W Forrest; notes on the surgical lectures delivered by Lister at the University of Glasgow, 1863-1865, taken by Alex Forsyth.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The records are arranged as outlined in the scope and content.

Conditions governing access:

Open to bona fide researchers by written appointment.

Conditions governing reproduction:

At the discretion of the Librarian.

Finding aids:

Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (1928) by Victor G Plarr.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Many of the records were presented to the College in accordance with the terms of Lord Lister's will.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Correspondence, diary, sketch book and papers (Reference: MSS 3298-3303, 5018), correspondence and papers with notebooks, 1833-1910 (Reference: MSS 6961-6989), notes of W Sharpey's lectures, 1849-1950 (Reference: MSL MS 80), notes on his lectures on clinical surgery by Albert Wilson (3 vols) 1874-1877 (Reference: MSS 5356-58), letters to Sir Thomas Barlow, 1886-1907, (Reference: PP/BAR), letters to Lister Institute, 1893-1907 (Reference: SA/LIS) and correspondence with Sir Edward Sharpey-Schafer, 1888-1899 (Reference: PP/ESS) are held by the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine; notebooks are held by the Commonwealth Mycological Institute; case notes, (see HMC MS papers of British scientists 1600-1940, 1982 for location); dissertation held by the Royal Medical Society; correspondence and papers (Reference: NRAS 1412) and correspondence with John Chiene, 1870-1908, are held by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh; correspondence and papers are held by Suffolk Record Office, Ipswich Branch; correspondence and papers, 1869-1912, are held by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (Reference: RCPSG11); letters to Sir Henry Acland, 1878-1899 (Reference: MSS Acland) and correspondence with Sir Henry Burdett, 1882-1901 (Reference: MSS Eng b 2068-69, c 5894-6032, d 2867-89), held by Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts; correspondence with Sir Thomas Barlow and letters (14), 1897-1909, are held by the Royal College of Physicians of London; letters (10) to Sir Alfred Kempe, 1894-1907 are held by West Sussex Record Office (Reference: Kempe papers); letters (27) to Albert Wilson, 1878-1907 are held by Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections (Reference: Dc 2 96); letters held by Birmingham University Information Services, Special Collections Department (Reference: L Add).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Historical Manuscripts Commission On-line National Register of Archives; Archives Hub website:; British Library Public On-line Catalogue. Compiled by Julie Tancell as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions:
National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
October 2002

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