The Monthly Scientist: Mr November

Imagine you’re going to have to have surgery in 1800, say for example your leg has a nasty wound and the only way forward is to amputate. Now surgery back then could have easily meant the end of your life. Not necessarily through the surgery itself but it would have been more than likely you would have developed an infection. Nasty ones at that, all that started to change with this months scientist:

Dr Joseph Lister


Born: 5, April 1827

Died: 10, February 1912

Noted for: Pioneering antiseptic techniques in surgery

Why scientist of the month?

I’ll be honest, I’m really glad that medicine has come on as much as it has. One of the most important advances in medicine has been the antiseptic technique. This basically means that microbes that cause infections are tried to be kept to an absolute minimum. This is partly down to Lister, he was a surgeon that believed (correctly) microbes carried in the air that caused diseases to be spread in wards. People who had been operated on were especially vulnerable as their bodies were weak and their skin had been cut open so that germs could get into the body with more ease.

So he came up with a method to try and combat this. Everything had to be thoroughly cleaned in his surgeries including the wound itself. Then he went further by devising a machine that pumped out a fine mist of carbolic acid into the air around an operation. Using this method the number of patients that died in his surgeries greatly reduced. Like going from a 45% death rate to 15%! This gradually became common practice and then further advancements were made in the antiseptic technique to get us where we are today.

So I personally would like to thank Joseph Lister for making surgery far safer than in the 1800s!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!





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