Friday, 23 March 2012 05:32

Joseph Lister: Men of Ideas

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Joseph Lister (1827-1912) was an English surgeon. His primary accomplishment is his recognition that surgeons contributed to the death of those they operated on if they did not take measures to sterilize their hands and the instruments they employed in surgery. He introduced carbolic acid (phenol) to sterilize surgical instruments and clean wounds.

Essentially, Lister discovered antiseptic means of treating wounds.  Lister contributed to the germ theory of diseases and helped prevent death by spreading diseases.

Preventing germs from getting into wounds prevents infection and death. Sterile surgery, which Lister introduced, has done more for public health than any thing else one can think of.

Today the name Lister is synonymous with efforts to kill germs. Listerine, a mouth wash to kill bacterial and other germs in the mouth, is named after Lister.

Lister contributed to other areas of surgery. For example, he developed methods for repairing kneecaps with metal wire; he also improved the techniques for mastectomy.

Later in life, Lister, especially after the death of his wife, became depressed and withdrew from work and lived in his country home in Kent; he died there.

Lister’s contribution to medicine and public health is his efforts to get medical personal to sterilize their environment so as to prevent spreading diseases from one patient to another and from medical staff to patients and themselves.


Joseph Lister. The Collected Papers of Joseph Lister, in two volumes. (1909)

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176