Views & Reviews Medical Classics

War on Disease: a History of the Lister Institute

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d8209 (Published 30 December 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d8209
  1. Jonathan Chick, honorary professor, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
  1. jonathan.chick{at}gmail.com

The Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, established as a research institute in 1891, was the first medical research charity in the United Kingdom (www.lister-institute.org.uk/about.html). In this book the institute’s scientists refer to the Lister as a way of life, “a habit of thought.”

Staff took alarming risks in pursuit of science. In 1905, plague in India killed half a million people. The Lister expedition asked people to hand in dead rats, with a quarter of an anna paid per rat—a now defunct unit of currency equal to 1/16 of a rupee. A street map was drawn linking infected rats to homes of deceased citizens. But how was bacillus pestis transmitted? Not by a rat bite. The answer …

Sign in

Free trial

Register for a free trial to thebmj.com to receive unlimited access to all content on thebmj.com for 14 days.
Sign up for a free trial

Subscribe