London Blog

Joseph Lister: bust profile

Joseph Lister was born 180 years ago today. A memorial to the famous surgeon can be found close to the medical institutions of central London.

Matt Brown

What’s this? A bust commemorating Joseph Lister (1827–1912), the celebrated pioneer of antiseptic techniques in surgery. Lister applied carbolic acid (phenol) to his surgical equipment in an attempt to prevent infection, an idea that occurred to him after reading Pasteur’s work on microorganisms. It worked, significantly reducing the incidence of post-surgical gangrene and other infections.

Who created it? Sculptor Sir Thomas Brock, in 1922. His most famous London work is probably the monument to Queen Victoria, outside Buckingham Palace.

Where is it? At the northern end of Portland place. The bust overlooks an impressive concentration of eminent scientific institutions, including the Medical Research Council and the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

London connections? Lister studied at UCL and later took up a position at King’s College, London. This most eminent of surgeons was also a member of the House of Lords, and President of the Royal Society (1895–1900). Further commemorations can be found in nearby Park Crescent (where he lived), and on a Gower Street frieze of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Lister is buried in Hampstead Cemetery.

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    Londonist said:

    Preview: Joseph Lister Talks

    Asking around, it’s quite staggering how few people can recall why Joseph Lister was famous. That guy out of Red Dwarf? Country singer? For some reason, the pioneer of antiseptic and sometime Londoner seems to be fading into obscurity among the populo…

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