Lindsey Fitzharris

The Butchering Art

Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

Scientific American 2018

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in BiographyNew Books in HistoryNew Books in MedicineNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books Network January 7, 2019 Jeremy Corr

Joseph Lister changed the world of medicine. In her book The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine...

Joseph Lister changed the world of medicine. In her book The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine (Scientific American, 2017), Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris explores the gruesome world of surgery in the 19th century. At this time even a successful surgeries had extremely high mortality rates due to persistent infections. Hospitals were terrifying places filled with death and anyone who could afford it opted to have surgeries in their own home.

It is in this world that a Quaker surgeon named Joseph Lister changed medicine forever. Lister bought into germ theory and claimed that they were the source of infection. At the time, this claim was considered ludicrous. He fought infection through the use and evangelization of antiseptics. Although everyone initially bought into his claims, Joseph Lister left the world of medicine a much different place than the one he entered.


Jeremy Corr is the co-host of the hit Fixing Healthcare podcast along with industry thought leader Dr. Robert Pearl. A University of Iowa history alumnus, Jeremy is curious and passionate about all things healthcare, which means he’s always up for a good discussion! Reach him at [email protected]

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