Dr. Joseph Lister was the father of modern sterile surgery. He noticed that babies born at home by midwife had a lower mortality rate than babies delivered by surgeons in the hospital. He surmised this was because surgeons often went directly from one surgery to another without washing their hands. (Think draining an abscess and then delivering a baby with the same icky hands.) In 1960 he moved to Glasgow and became a Professor of Surgery. There he decided to apply Louis Pasteur’s theory that invisible germs caused infection, and began to experiment using one of Pasteur’s proposed techniques—exposing the wound to chemical. Dr. Lister chose dressing soaked with carbolic acid (phenol) to cover the wounds, and the rate of infection was dramatically reduced. He also experimented with hand-washing, sterilizing instruments and spraying carbolic in the surgery theater while operating.
His techniques were scorned by other physicians until his post-operative death rate plummeted relative to those of other surgeons. His Listerian principles were adopted by surgeons in many countries.
Listerine, developed in 1879 as a surgical antiseptic, was named in honor of Doctor Lister.