AJO History of Ophthalmology Series

The common misconception in superficial histories of medicine is that Joseph Lister (1827—1912) singlehandedly revolutionized surgery by applying the new germ theory to the care of the surgical patient, and he did this against the opposition of his peers. In reality, the movement for building well-ventilated hospital wards that could be kept scrupulously clean was begun before Lister came on the scene. Lister’s particular scheme was to rely dogmatically and completely on carbolic acid, already in wide use in Europe as a disinfectant, to be applied to the surgeon’s hands and operative field, as well as used liberally on bandages, even if this led to tissue damage. He was otherwise rather careless in requiring a clean environment. Later, a host of innovations by others showed the value of strict cleanliness and wound closure rather than total reliance on antisepsis in decreasing wound infection. Lister was able to co-opt the new findings by declaring that this had always been his technique to start with, and was able to convince others that he had pioneered them.

Submitted by Ron Fishman from the Cogan Ophthalmic History Society.

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Jan 16, 2017 | Posted by in OPHTHALMOLOGY | Comments Off on AJO History of Ophthalmology Series

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