to us.

of a spirit such as is seldom revealed “antiseptic system” had been evolved in

Glasgow and developed in Edinburgh. I On Monday, October 1, 1877, I entered say advisedly "so-called system” for almost as a student at King's College, London, through his whole life Lister had to fight attracted there entirely by the great name hard in defence of the principles on which of Lister, to whom my attention had been he based his methods of wound treatment; directed by a brother who had been his the methods employed were, of course,

subject to constant revision, alteration and improvement, and so could not sclerose into “a system,” though the principles remain fixed. But the unthinking crowd, even in a learned profession like ours, shies at principles and always wants to pin the wings of thought down upon the cardboard of what the Englishman likes to call “practical methods.” Hence Lister's treatment of wounds was frequently called the “carbolic method,” or “the gauze and spray system.” He once said to me that he expected to spend his life searching for an antiseptic that was non-irritating. In these efforts, he moved from carbolic lotion to boracic, or made trial of corrosive sublimate, and then reverted to carbolic. Or he saturated his gauze with carbolic iodoform, eucalyptus or double cyanide of mercury. These seekings after truth were all causes for stumbling to the average individual,

who loves finality and a ritual he can LORD LISTER, aged 69.

adopt—no matter if he does so unthink

ingly—so long as he can carry on with it pupil in Glasgow. On that same first day of indefinitely. This appreciation of general October, 1877, Lister, coming from Edin

principles, so natural to the logical Latin burgh, entered on his duties as professor of mind of France and Italy, is strikingly clinical surgery in King's College Hospital. wanting in the national character of Eng

Educated at University College and a land. As Matthew Arnold says, we have no graduate of London University, Lister had already achieved what some would think the success of a lifetime, in that, though an Englishman by birth, he had migrated to Scotland and had there successively filled the chair of surgery in the two great universities of the north,-in Glasgow from 1860 to 1869, and in Edinburgh from 1869 to 1877. He had been working all that time at the process of healing in wounds and the best methods of promoting it. The so-called Upton House, in the County of Essex. Birthplace of Joseph

Lister, April 5, 1827.


ing wounds, the two most notable being his own nephews—Marcus Beck, afterwards on the staff of University College Hospital, and Rickman Godlee, later on president of the Royal College of Surgeons and the author of that biography of his uncle which every physician should read.

sense of the idea. This is strange when we recollect that some of the greatest abstract thinkers have belonged to the British Isles—Hume, Hamilton, Locke, John Stuart Mill, Bain, Adam Smith, Herbert Spencer. But, on scrutinizing these names closely, we cannot help noting that the majority of them indicate that their owners came from north of the Tweed. Certainly in Scotland, Lister had a far larger and more devoted following of pupils than he ever gained in London. In Edinburgh the number of students who crowded the theatre to attend his regular course of clinical surgery frequently exceeded 400; and foreign surgeons from all the countries of America and Europe, and even the outmost dwellers of Mesopotamia, had been flocking for years to Glasgow and Edinburgh. A few, a very, very few young surgeons from London had ventured north to see and hear about this new antiseptic method of treat

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Joseph Lister, aged about 28.

What induced Lister to leave the high position he had in Edinburgh, his wards of sixty to seventy beds in the Royal Infirmary, and these crowded classes of attentive students, to come to a small school in London where only twenty-four beds were allotted to him and where the students of all four years (the curriculum was then a four-year one) together only amounted to 142? In Edinburgh the average annual entry of medical students was over 180; in King's College it was less than 25. In London, instead of the University spirit of the northern capital, he was sure to be met with the insularity and parochialism which is perhaps more marked in London


LISTER, aged thirteen years. A silhouette by his father.

than in any other spot in the United King- a number of Edinburgh students did really dom. His coming was not in order to have believe what was the truth—that it was a larger field for private practice. Always only a sense of duty which had made him blessed with a sufficiency of private means, come to the decision to leave that school. Lister at no time courted the pecuniary re- He added that it was a wrench to leave a wards of practice, and he died a compara- school in which he had received

great kindness, and to take a cold plunge into what might prove to be a sea of troubles.?

He was indeed right; a cold and stormy sea of trouble was awaiting him. Lister returned from professorships in the Scottish Universities to his own southern people, to the city of his birth and the country of his own form of faith. He returned to his own and his own received him not.

On Monday, October 1, 1877, as already recorded, I entered King's College, London, as a student and Joseph Lister entered it as a professor. But, in addition, on that day he also delivered the introductory address of the session 1877–1878. These inaugural orations have nearly died out; at that time they were almost universal. As a rule they were devoted to pointing out to freshmen the nobility, responsibilities and privileges of the profession to which they were about to devote themselves, and urging them by hard work, simple living and high thinking to make themselves worthy of it. They were, as a rule, friendly functions; the usual

oration did not make too much demand on PROFESSOR JAMES SYME.


2 Brit. M. J., 1877, vol. ii, Aug. 4, p. 145.

tively poor man. It was not to hunt for honors or distinctions; Lister, brought up a Quaker, thought little of such adornments. All who knew him are convinced that he accepted the invitation to come south simply and solely because he felt that on the larger and more central stage of the metropolis he could so demonstrate his work that he would the sooner fulfil his mission and win the whole world to accept his principles. In taking leave of his class in Edinburgh he expressed the pleasure that, under the risk of having his motives in leaving Edinburgh for London quite misunderstood, so large

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our thinking capacity, and we all came Medical Journal of that year. What I away cheered, as we always are, by a call would like to recall is that, although the to high endeavor, to “make our reach large theatre in the College was crowded exceed our arm, else what's Heaven for?” from floor to ceiling, and although Lister As a rule they were limited to the past and had a warm reception from former pupils present students of each school.

and distinguished men of science, and But Lister, to most people's astonishment, opened his address by stating that he was going to record some experiments he had made (during his holidays, forsooth!) "to obtain some positive and definite knowledge of the essential nature of a class of phenomena which interest alike the physician, the surgeon and the accoucheur, viz., the changes in organic substance which are designated by the general term fermentation.”3 This address was delivered from behind a table, covered with pipettes, test tube stands, glass flasks, tubes containing milk and blood, and the other paraphernalia required to demonstrate Lister's contention that neither milk nor blood had any inherent tendency to putrefaction, and that if either of these fluids was drawn and preserved under what we should nowadays call "sterile conditions,” it remained free from putrefaction indefinitely. This is all accepted doctrine nowadays, as “most can raise the flowers now, For all have got the seed” (Tennyson). But although it was not so forty-one years JOSEPH LISTER, as he appeared when about 40 years old. ago, I need not deal further with the lecture, which can be read in full in the British although many surgeons had, on this open

ing day of the session, left their own schools 3 "Brit. M. J., 1877, vol. ii, Oct. 6, p. 465.

to come and hear him, yet it was generally thought that such an abstruse subject as lactic acid fermentation had no concern for a professor of surgery, that he did not seem the sort of teacher to show a student how to get through his examinations, that this man fiddling about with flasks and test tubes and talking about “putrefactive fermentation" could not be the “practical man” so dearly beloved in that Victorian generation, which could not possibly have years of age be the leader of a great nation came from this side of the Atlantic. Dr. like France, or that a soldier like Foch John Stewart of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was might write books on war and be a lecturer one of the most affectionate pupils of the in a military academy, and yet lead to vic- master, whom he has drawn in many telling tory the greatest army the world had ever pen pictures. From 1878, when I had last seen, or that a college professor like Wood- seen him acting as a dresser in London, row Wilson would be elected as their Presi- forty years passed before we met again. dent by a nation of one hundred millions Then I found him a year ago following the of practical people.

imagined that a medical man like ClemenEdinburgh Infirmary, where Lister lectured from 1869

ceau could write novels and at seventy-five to 1877.


flag in France, and serving in his seventieth I sadly confess that at Lister's opening year as Commandant of a Canadian hosaddress we students were bored, and we pital in Havre. showed it. Forty-one years ago it was not thought to be discourteous or “bad form” to disturb or even kick up a row at a lecture. Consequently we shuffled our feet and reminded the lecturer sotto-voce that his hour was up and that it was tea time! When he was describing his investigations on the fermentation of milk he had occasion to refer to the cow-house and to cows—and then we boo-ed, and if he mentioned the dairy-maid we said "tut, tut,” and thought ourselves very funny fellows!

This first plunge at the College was certainly chilly, but it was at the hospital that Lister encountered his full sea of The Old King's College Hospital, London, where Lister troubles. He had stipulated that he should

worked from 1877 till 1893. The building has now been

pulled down. be allowed to bring with him from Edinburgh four assistants already trained in his methods and attached solely to his service. Vexatious opposition to Lister and his This was a cause of offence; first, because energetic though humane work came chiefly it was held that any dresser could employ from the nurses. In those days the Hospital carbolic lotion and gauze, just as previously did not control its own nurses; the nursing he had learned to apply water-dressing or was, so to speak, leased out to a body which oakum; and second, because in those days was much more a religious sisterhood than operations were so uncommon that a single a nursing staff, composed of the Sisters of house-surgeon and one theatre had pre- St. John, an Anglican community, much viously sufficed for all the three senior given to ritual repression, frigid rules, the surgeons of the staff. The house-surgeon exaltation of what was considered the reliwhom he brought with him came from the gious care of the patient above his medical Shetland Isles, and his name will not be well-being, and withal, with a mailed fist unknown to you as Sir Watson Cheyne, ever clenched and ready for any helpless stuwho later succeeded his master as professor dent, resident, or even member of the staff in King's College Hospital, served as presi- who showed any tendency to lèse-majesté. dent of the Royal College of Surgeons, and I could many a tale unfold of these far-off now, retired from practice, is an active days and battles long ago between the Member of Parliament. The senior dresser nursing and the medical staffs. I only men

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