Lister

   , LISTERINE
   To have one's name become a household word seems to be a mark of success for some people and a goal worth striving for. But to others, it is anathema. In the nineteenth century, an English physician, the founder of antiseptic surgery, a brilliantly famous man, had his name preempted by a manufacturer of a commercial product.
   Dr. Joseph Lister (1827-1912), whose treatment of wounds by antisepsis revolutionized modern surgery, was born, at Upton, Essex, and earned his medical degree at age twenty-five at University College, London. He served as professor of surgery at Glasgow University (1860-1869), Edinburgh University (1869-1877), and at King's College (1871-1894). He was made a baronet, elevated to the peerage, and became surgeon to Queen Victoria. He was the first physician to be made a British peer. He was also the founder of the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine in London.
   Lister learned from Pasteur's theory that fermentation was caused by bacteria, a theory that led him to conclude that pus was also due to bacteria. He determined that germs were carried by surgical instruments as well as by the hands of the attendants. He then proceeded to introduce the use of antiseptic solution on hands, instruments, and bandages. In 1881, a mouthwash was marketed by an American company under the trademark Listerine. It was an obvious attempt to trade on the distinguished surgeon's name. According to H. L. Mencken, as reported in The American Language, Dr. Lister was quite unhappy about the commercialization of his name, but his efforts to disassociate it from the product were fruitless. In any event, the product became exceedingly popular, and the name so generic that the name listerine might now apply to any antiseptic mouthwash.
   Lister was once summoned to remove a fishbone from the throat of a rich lord. The surgeon was successful, and the patient, overcome with gratitude, asked what was owed him. Lister replied, "My lord, suppose we settle for half of what you would be willing to pay if the bone were still lodged in your throat."

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

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