August 12, 1865 — British surgeon Joseph Lister applied Louis Pasteur’s advances in microbiology when he performed the first antiseptic surgery today using carbolic acid. It had been used to get rid of a cattle parasites in fields.
Lister surmised that the same microorganisms in the air that made wine spoil lead to infections during surgeries. So he cleaned the wounds of his patient and soaked the dressings in antiseptic liquid, as well.
His experiment proved to be a tremendous success. Within months, he saw the death rate of his patients drop to 15% — down from nearly 50%.
Words of Wisdom
"Bearing in mind that it is from the vitality of the atmospheric particles that all the mischief arises, it appears that all that is requisite is to dress the wound with some material capable of killing these septic germs, provided that any substance can be found reliable for this purpose, yet not too potent as a caustic. In the course of the year 1864 I was much struck with an account of the remarkable effects produced by carbolic acid upon the sewage of the town of Carlisle, the admixture of a very small proportion not only preventing all odour from the lands irrigated with the refuse material, but, as it was stated, destroying the entozoa which usually infest cattle fed upon such pastures."