Skip to content

Biography of Joseph Lister

Photo of Joseph Lister

Joseph Lister was a nineteenth century doctor and pioneer in antiseptics.

When and Where was he Born?

5th April 1827, Upton, Essex, England.

Family Background:

Joseph Lister was the second son of a wine merchant, Joseph Jackson Lister who was instrumental in the development of the microscope.


Tottenham College. University College, London which was one of the few universities to take Quakers. He studied firstly Arts and then Medicine.

Timeline of Sir Joseph Lister:

1852: Lister becomes House Surgeon at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

1856: He marries Agnes Syme.

1867: He proves his scientific methods, which he had been working on for some time and founded modern antiseptic surgery based originally on Louis Pasteur’s theories of bacteria and infection. He used carbolic acid as the antiseptic agent and heat sterilised instruments. He also develops absorbable ligature drainage tubes, which have come into general surgical use.

1869: He becomes Professor of Clinical Surgery at Edinburgh University.

1870: Joseph Lister moves to Number Nine Charlotte Square, Edinburgh.

1877: He moves to work at Kings College, London.

1893: He retires from King’s College.

1895: Lister is elected President of the Royal Society of London (until 1900).

1900: In March Lister is appointed the Serjeant Surgeon to Queen Victoria and becomes the senior physician in the Royal Household. He is elected to the peerage as First Baron Lister.

1901: He is reappointed Serjeant Surgeon by the new King Edward the Seventh.

When and Where did he Die?

12th October 1912, Walmer, Kent, England after suffering from a stroke some months before.

Age at Death:



1856 to Agnes Syme.

Site of Grave:

Hampstead Cemetery, Fortune Green Road, London, England.

Places of Interest:


King’s College.


Edinburgh University.
Former home and study at number 9 Charlotte Square.