Joseph Lister

In the north choir aisle of Westminster Abbey is a memorial to surgeon Lord Lister, pioneer of antiseptic treatment. The white marble roundel, by sculptor Sir Thomas Brock, shows a profile bust of Joseph and was erected in 1915. The inscription simply reads:


Joseph was a child of Joseph Jackson Lister and his wife Isabella (Harris) and was born at Upton in Essex on 5th April 1827. His brother Arthur became a botanist. His father encouraged his scientific pursuits but young Joseph decided to become a surgeon. While studying at University College London he attended the first operation in the country to use ether. A bout of smallpox interrupted his studies but he became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1852. From 1853-1860 he worked in Edinburgh and on 23rd April 1856 he married Agnes Syme, daughter of the surgeon he worked under, but they had no children. In 1860 he was appointed chair of surgery at Glasgow University and continued his studies on inflammation and wounds, publishing papers which brought him to prominence in the profession. In 1867 he announced his system of antiseptic surgery. Then he moved to King's College London as professor of surgery and was made Baron Lister of Lyme Regis in 1897 and was one of the original members of the Order of Merit. He died on 10th February 1912 and although burial in the Abbey was offered he had asked to be buried with his wife in Hampstead cemetery. His funeral service was held in the Abbey on 16th February 1912.

Further reading for Lord Lister, his father and brother

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004


5th April 1827


10th February 1912


Physician; doctor


North Choir Aisle

Memorial Type


Material Type


Joseph Lister
Joseph Lister

Wellcome Images [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Joseph Lister
Lord Lister memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

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