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August 1965

Joseph ListerA Century of The Antiseptic Principle in the Practice of Surgery (Aug 12, 1865—Aug 12, 1965)

Arch Surg. 1965;91(2):327-329. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1965.01320140117016

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THE day after Lister first successfully used carbolic acid in the treatment of a compound fracture wound of an 11-year-old boy in Glasgow, Semmelweis died of a surgical infection in Budapest (Aug 13, 1865). Thus, the celebration of a century of Listerism should also commemorate the 100th anniversary of Semmelweis' death. Lister was unaware of Semmelweis and his work until 1883, when with characteristic generosity he declared Semmelweis his forerunner.

The germ theory in connection with disease was Lister's fundamental concept. He concluded from Pasteur's work of 1864 that the cause of surgical infection was an environment in which minute living particles "were suspended and were capable of resolving complex organic compounds into substances of simpler chemical composition," when they infected wounds. For nearly a decade prior to 1865 Lister had directed his attention to the subject of inflammation and to suppuration. He had become aware of the use of

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