n the 1800s, hospitals were often dangerous places. Many doctors didn't wear caps and gowns or wash their hands before they began to work. Doctors also hadn't discovered how to put people to sleep so a patient was usually awake during an operation.
Some people died from the pain, but more often, they died from an infection, when germs got into their wounds. Back then, people believed that an infection was caused by something in the air. Doctor Joseph Lister spent many years trying to find out how to prevent infection.
was born in England in 1827.
He began studying medicine when he was twenty-one
and became a doctor in 1851.
Dr. Lister spent the
next fourteen years trying to find out why so many people died after
they'd had an operation. Until he died in 1912,
Dr. Lister worked hard to make hospitals cleaner, safer places.
In 1864, Dr. Lister began to study germs. He believed that germs got into wounds and kept them from healing. He wanted to discover something that would kill the bugs, but not hurt the patients. Dr. Lister knew that carbolic acid had been used to kill germs in cattle, and he wondered if this chemical could help to stop people getting infections. The following year, Dr. Lister treated a boy who had a broken and bleeding leg. He washed the boy's wound with carbolic acid and soaked his bandages in the chemical. The wound healed perfectly carbolic acid had worked as an antiseptic.
In 1869, Dr. Lister invented a pump to spray carbolic acid into the air in operating theaters. It wasn't very pleasant to work with, but the chemical killed the bugs and kept patients safer.
Soon, other hospitals began to use carbolic acid and more and more people survived their operations. Joseph Lister, bug buster, had made an important discovery that saved many lives.