Robert Liston, Surgical Pioneer


Robert Liston operating, painted by Ernest Board. Commissioned by Henry S. Wellcome in 1912. Wellcome Images/licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Liston is most known for a tale about how multiple deaths resulted from one of his surgeries. But that means that his entire biography as a surgeon is dominated by the apocryphal events of one day. So today we’ll unpack his career and ethics.

Holly's Research:

  • Kaufman, M.H. “John Barclay (1758–1826) extra-mural teacher of anatomy in Edinburgh: Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.” The Surgeon. Volume 4, Issue 2. April 2006. Pages 93-100. Accessed online: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1479666X06800387
  • Littlewood, A.H.M. “Robert Liston (1794-1847).” British Journal of Plastic Surgery. Volume 13. pages 97 – 101. Accessed online: https://www.jprasurg.com/article/S0007-1226(60)80025-2/pdf
  • “WHO Surgical Site infection Prevention Guidelines Web Appendix 7 Summary of a systematic review on the effectiveness and optimal method of hair removal.” https://www.who.int/gpsc/appendix7.pdf
  • Richardson, Ruth. “Death, Dissection and the Destitute.” University of Chicago Press. 2000.
  • Jenkins, John Philip. “William Burke and William Hare.” Encyclopædia Britannica.July 27, 2011. https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Burke-and-William-Hare
  • Jones, Andrew J. et al. “Time me, gentlemen! The bravado and bravery of Robert Liston.” American College of Surgeons. 2016. https://www.facs.org/~/media/files/archives/shg%20poster/2016/05_liston.ashx
  • Masson, A.H.B. “Two Early Ether Inhalers.” Anaesthesia. Vol. 44 pages 843-846. 1989. Accessed online: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1365-2044.1989.tb09106.x
  • Thomas, Bill. “Saints and Sinners: Robert Liston.” The Royal College of Surgeons of England Bulletin. 2012. https://publishing.rcseng.ac.uk/doi/pdf/10.1308/147363512X13189526439197
  • Onwhyn, J. “The Lancet.” Volume 2. 1847. Accessed online: https://books.google.com/books?id=2wECAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA633&dq=%22robert+liston%22&hl=en#v=onepage&q=%22robert%20liston%22&f=false
  • Liston, Robert. “Practical Surgery: With One Hundred and Twenty Engravings on Wood.” J. Crissy. Philadelphia. 1838. https://archive.org/details/practicalsurgery00listuoft/page/78
  • Liston, Robert. “Elements of Surgery.” London. Longman, Orme, Brown, Green ad Longmans. 1840. https://archive.org/details/elementssurgery00listgoog/page/n7
  • Littlewood, A.H.M. “ROBERT LISTON (1794-1847).” British Journal of Plastic Surgery. Vol. 13, pages 97-101. 1960. https://www.jprasurg.com/article/S0007-1226(60)80025-2/pdf

Topics in this Podcast: 19th century, anesthesia, British history, European history, rhinoplasty, medical history, Scotland, biographies