Treasures From the Collection

Carbolic Spray


carbolic spray

After reading the work of Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister (1827-1912) concluded that germs in the air spread disease, especially to surgical patients.  To combat "ward fever," or infection, he began to clean wounds with carbolic acid.

He later invented the carbolic spray, which pumped a mist of disinfectant over everything in his operating theatre.  By the late 1880s, he had replaced this device with the disinfection of hands, instruments, and bandages because breathing carbolic acid was dangerous.

Lister's discoveries resulted in a drastic drop in the death rate of his patients, and he is now known as the father of modern antiseptic surgery.

Our carbolic spray was patented in 1860, and manufactured by the Codman and Shurtieff company in Boston.  Lister himself gave this device to one of his surgical dressers at the Glasgow Infirmary, whose son, Dr. A.H. Taylor of Goderich, donated it to Western.

Click here for a link to the database.