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British Industrial History

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Joseph Jackson Lister

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Joseph Jackson Lister (1786–1869), wine merchant and microscopist

1786 Born in London, son of John Lister, a wine merchant (a watchmaker before his marriage), and his wife, Mary Jackson.

c.1800 At the age of 14, Lister left school to work in the family wine business, living above the premises in Lothbury with his parents until the death of his mother in 1808.

1808 His father then moved to Stoke Newington, where he lived with his unmarried daughter.

1812 Joseph Jackson Lister transferred the wine business to 5 Tokenhouse Yard

1818 Married Isabella Harris; they had 3 daughters and 4 sons, of whom one, Joseph Lister, became Baron Lister of Lyme Regis, the famous surgeon, and another, Arthur Lister, became a botanist.

c.1822 They moved to Stoke Newington

1824 Proposed an improved design of microscope lens to overcome spherical abberation, which became the state of the art.

1826 Lister bought Upton House, West Ham, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Lister's nephew, Richard Low Beck, joined the firm and became a resident partner at Tokenhouse Yard.

1826 James Smith made an improved microscope stand to Lister's design.

1827 Published a paper with Thomas Hodgkin that described for the first time the true form and most accurate measure of the diameter of red blood cells based on use of microscopes.

1830 Read a paper on micrscope lenses before the Royal Society. Began grinding lenses rather than rely on others

1832 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society

1837 Andrew Ross, a leading lens maker, first made a one-eighth inch objective lens to Lister's design

1840 James Smith constructed quarter inch objective lenses that became popular with microscopists.

1842-2 Prepared a paper on the theory of the microscopic image, perhaps his greatest contribution to the field.

Over the next four decades, with Lister's designs commercially available, the optical microscope became a serious scientific instrument in many fields.

1869 died at home, Upton House.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of Joseph Jackson Lister, ODNB [1]