The archives of Joseph Lister 1827 - 1912

The archives of Joseph Lister, surgeon, scientist and pioneer of antiseptic surgery, are held in the Wellcome Library, beautifully folded, stored and wrapped in ribbon.

They give an insight into who else Joseph was; a man who bought a lot of biscuits, gave money to the poor, sometimes forgot to take his library books back, moaned to his sister Mary about not having time to write.

His personal and surgical notebooks chart the development of his theories on bacterial infection and the use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic agent. There are records of pivotal discoveries, connections and communication with Louis Pasteur, but there are also records of the mistakes, the scorings out - ‘the carbolic acid was too strong’ , ‘it didn’t work’

We used the bacterial light to illuminate Joseph Lister and in doing so felt we brought him out of the archive and back to life for just a short time.

This was made possible with the help of Rowan De Saulles, and the archivists at the Wellcome library. Thanks also to photographer Vaughan Forbes for all his help and advice.

Joseph Lister 1835 ‘My dear Mary’

Joseph Lister

Joseph Lister Jan 31st 1866 Laboratory notes. ‘the carbolic acid seems to have been a little too strong’

Joseph Lister, ‘library fines’ detail from personal accountbook 1845-1849

Sketch by Joseph Lister 1834 aged 7

Teacups and spoons

University of Surrey. The start of Teacups and Spoon series - see below.