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The Collection


 Lord Joseph Lister’s antiseptic spray

Within the collection, in the Aesculpius Room, is Sir Joseph Lister’s carbolic antiseptic spray. A common report by surgeons in the early 19th century was, 'operation successful but the patient died'. Sir Joseph Lister (1827-1912), Professor of Clinical Surgery at King's from 1877 to 1893, introduced an antiseptic system which changed the practice of medicine and drastically reduced mortality rates from major operations. Convinced that putrefaction was caused by airborne bacteria, Lister initially used carbolic acid-soaked bandages on wounds to create a barrier against infection.

The antiseptic spray device worked on the throat-spray principle. A jet of steam from the copper boiler blew over the tops of the two tubes passing to the glass jar which was filled with carbolic. The carbolic was suckered up these two tubes and carbolic vapour was produced. Lister finally abandoned the spray in 1887 however the influence of his theories was convincing. By 1910 post operative mortality for major operations reduced from 40 per cent to less than three per cent and Lister’s principle - that bacteria should never gain entry to an entry wound – remains a basic principle of surgery top this day.


Sir Joseph Lister’s principle - that bacteria must never gain entry to an operation wound - remains the basis of surgery to this day.

 Thomas Hodgkin’s Stethoscope

Thomas Hodgkin’s Stethoscope is on display in the Aesculpius Room of the Gordon Museum. Hodgkin  (1798-1866) encountered the new instrument in Paris and presented a paper on its use to the Guy’s Hospital Physical Society in 1822. Although he was an early advocate of the instrument, it was initially received with scepticism by the medical profession in England.

 Hodgkin Stethascope

 Thomas Hodgkin's Stethoscope, the first to be used in England

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