Sir Joseph Lister collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Lister to Robert Falcon Scott regarding the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904 which Scott led.

Administrative / Biographical History

Joseph Lister was born in 1827 in Upton, Essex. Educated at University College, London, he graduated with an arts degree in 1847 and a degree in medicine in 1852. In 1853, Lister went to Edinburgh and three years later became assistant surgeon to the Royal Infirmary. In 1860, he was appointed professor of surgery at Glasgow University, becoming surgeon to the Glasgow Infirmary one year later. He brought to surgery the principle of antisepsis, based on Louis Pasteur's theory that bacteria cause infection. Using carbolic acid as an antiseptic agent and introducing the use of absorbable ligatures and drainage tubes, he dramatically reduced post-operative fatalities and became the founder of modern antiseptic surgery.

In 1869, he was appointed to the chair of clinical surgery at Edinburgh University, holding that post until 1877, when he was appointed professor of clinical surgery at King's College, London. In 1883, he was made a baronet and, in 1897, was raised to the peerage as Baron Lister of Lyme Regis. He died in 1912 at Walmer, Kent.


The correspondence is arranged chronologically.

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Dictionary of National Biography, 1912-1921, with an index covering the years 1901-1921 in one alphabetical series, Oxford University Press, London (1927) and and Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events, (1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN 0521309034

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

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Further accessions possible.