Papers of Dr Joseph Lister, first Baron Lister of Lyme Regis (1827-1912), founder of antiseptic surgery

Scope and Content

Correspondence, 1869-1929, including to Sir William Macewen and Sir Hector Cameron; miscellaneous material, 1867-1912, including an article written by Lister for the Lancet on the topic of the 'Interdependence of Science and the Healing Art', a lecture about Lister given by Sir William Macewen, photographs including one of the Lister Ward at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, printed order of service for his funeral at Westminster Abbey and his obituary which appeared in the Glasgow University Magazine; material relating to the celebrations of centenary of Lister's Birth, 1927-1965.

Administrative / Biographical History

Joseph Lister was born at Upton, Essex in 1827. He was raised as a Quaker and went to a Quaker school in Tottenham. He attended University College London where he took the degrees of BA in 1847 and MB in 1852. He came to Edinburgh for a few months' study with James Syme, the Professor of Clinical Surgery, in 1853 and stayed for seven years, marrying Syme's daughter Agnes in 1856. He became Syme's dresser and subsequently his house-surgeon for one year. In 1856 he was appointed Assistant Surgeon to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and took an active part in teaching the extra-mural school. In 1860, he was appointed to the Regius Chair of Surgery in Glasgow University, and a year later became surgeon to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. It was during these years at Glasgow that he made the observations and discoveries which revolutionized the treatment of disease and injuries. His interest in the recently discovered pasteurisation process led to experiments with the use of carbolic acid to keep wounds clean and to the advent of antiseptic surgery. In 1869 Lister became Professor of Clinical Surgery at Edinburgh. In 1877 he left to take up the Chair of Clinical Surgery created for him at King's College Hospital, London. He was granted a baronetcy in 1883; and was created Baron Lister, of Lyme Regis in 1897. He died in 1912.

For obituaries of Joseph Lister, see the British Medical Journal, 1912 (Volume 1) and the Glasgow Medical Journal, 1912 (Volume 77).


Arranged chronologically within record series.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to some items may be restricted. Please contact the Archivist at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

Acquisition Information

Not known.

Other Finding Aids

Descriptive list available at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. See also NRA(S) Survey 1909.

Archivist's Note


Conditions Governing Use

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Archivist. We will try to assist in identifying copyright owners but the responsibility for copyright clearance before publication ultimately rests with the reader.

Appraisal Information

Appraised in accordance with GB 250's collection policy.

Custodial History

Not known.


Not expected.

Related Material

RCPSG 32 Papers of Sir Hector Cameron; Lister spray and instruments in RCPSG instrument collection.

Location of Originals

This material is original.


No known publications.