Three autograph letters, signed, to Sir John Evans.

London, 12 Park Crescent, Portland Place, 19 April 1896 and 18 February 1898, and Bath, York House Hotel, 20 November 1898.

8vo bifolia (181 x 115 mm), pp. [9] in total; written on paper headed ‘12, Park Crescent, Portland Place’; paper watermarked ‘ORIGINAL TURKEY MILL KENT’; sometime folded, in excellent condition.

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Three autograph letters, signed, to Sir John Evans.

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Three letters by the great surgeon Joseph Lister to the archaeologist and geologist Sir John Evans (1823–1908), who was treasurer of the Royal Society during Lister’s presidency.

In the first letter, Lister, having invited to dinner ‘Professor Lippman, whose lecture at the Royal Institution on Friday was most interesting’, asks Evans if he would like to attend also: ‘If you happen to have no engagement . . . & can excuse so short an invitation, your company would give great pleasure’. ‘Professor Lippman’ is the Franco-Luxembourgish physicist and inventor Gabriel Lippmann (1845–1921).

In the second letter, Lister thanks Sir John for his letter and mentions a ‘Catalogue’ regarding which ‘I do not feel competent to be of any real service, and I have a sort of instructive feeling that the project is too gigantic to be practicable’. He goes on: ‘I have just received your telegram with its welcome news. I am very glad that Robertson as well as Glazebrook has got in – Foster was here this morning and told me that you will be good enough to take my place in presenting the three Secretaries on Monday, for though I am much better today, my “doctor” thinks it would be wiser for me not to attend. You make me melancholy when you refer to the approaching conclusion of your term of office as Treasurer. I don’t know how we shall get on without you; if indeed I have any right to say we’.

In the third letter, written from Bath, Lister regrets that he will not be able to attend the next meeting of the Royal Society, saying that he has asked ‘Harrison’ to arrange for Story-Maskelyne, or Russell or Clifton to take his place; ‘in the unlikely case of all the three other Vice Presidents failing, I trust you would be so very good as to be my substitute. With more regret than I can express that your tenure of office is so near its close [. . .]’.

‘One of the greatest of British surgeons, Lister was educated at the Universities of London and Edinburgh, and was professor of surgery at those Universities as well as at the University of Glasgow. His early research on inflammation and suppuration after injuries and surgery, coupled with his interest in Pasteur’s demonstration that pus formation is caused by the action of live bacteria, lead him to search for a chemical means of preventing infection. He found this in carbolic acid. His system was widely and immediately adopted, thus beginning a new era in surgery leading to the universally accepted asepsis in all modern surgery. Lister was elevated to the peerage in 1897, the first medical man to be so honored’ (Heirs of Hippocrates).

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