Robert Liston

1794 - 1847

Robert Liston
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Robert Liston

Surgeon. Born at Ecclesmachan (West Lothian), the son of a clergyman, Liston studied anatomy under Dr John Barclay (1758 - 1826) in Edinburgh and completed his education in London. He was appointed a lecturer in anatomy in the University of Edinburgh in 1818 and practised in surgery at the Royal Infirmary in the city. A skillful surgeon, Liston was renowned for completing operations in a matter of seconds at a time before anaesthetics when speed minimised the pain for the patient and increased the chance of survival. Liston was also an abrasive and arrogant man and he left Edinburgh in 1834 in part because of his unpopularity within the medical establishment. However, his reputation was such that a civic dinner was held in his honour shortly before he departed. He accepted the Chair of Clinical Surgery at University College London in 1835.

He invented the Liston splint, to support the thigh, which is still used today and locking forceps to seal arteries against blood loss. Liston also pioneered several new methods of amputation and was the first in Europe to use an anaesthetic (ether) during an operation in 1846.

His principal works are The Elements of Surgery (1832) and Practical Surgery (1837).

He died in London.

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