Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lister, Martin

LISTER, MARTIN (1638?–1712), zoologist, was born of a Yorkshire family, several members of which became eminent in medicine, at Radclive, Buckinghamshire, about 1638. He was the son of Sir Martin Lister (knighted 1625) and nephew of Sir Matthew Lister [q. v.], and was educated under the direction of the latter. He entered St. John's College, Cambridge, as a pensioner, at the age of sixteen, 12 June 1655, and graduated as B.A. in 1658–9. He was made a fellow of his college by royal mandate in 1660, and proceeded M.A. in 1662. He is said to have travelled in France to improve his knowledge of medicine previous to 1670; but from numerous letters written by him to John Ray [q. v.] between 1667 and that year, dated from Burwell, Lincolnshire, from Cambridge, and from Craven, it would seem that he can only have been a short time abroad. These letters deal at first with observations on plants and on spiders, of which animals Lister was one of the earliest students. His contributions to the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ about forty in number, treating of these subjects, as well as of meteorology, minerals, molluscs, medicine, and antiquities, extend from No. 25 to No. 585, many of them being also published separately.

In 1670–1 Lister was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and thereupon settled at York, where he practised medicine with considerable repute until 1683. It appears from his letters (Correspondence of John Ray, ed. Lankester, p. 80) that by 1670 he was married. His spare time was devoted to natural history and Yorkshire antiquities, and he maintained a correspondence with Lhuyd, as well as with Ray, presenting various Roman altars, coins, and other objects to the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, together with the original drawings, over a thousand in number, made by his daughters, Susannah and Mary, for the ‘Historia Conchyliorum,’ published in 1685. At the suggestion of friends Lister removed to London in 1684, being created M.D. by the university of Oxford on 5 March in that year at the recommendation of the chancellor. He became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1687, and in 1694 he was chosen censor.

In order to secure rest and change of air, Lister in 1698 accompanied the Earl of Portland on his embassy to Paris; two previous visits to France having proved beneficial to him. He remained six months, and on his return published an account of his journey, which ran through three editions within the year; its introduction of some trivial details induced Dr. William King to travesty it in the ‘Journey to London,’ but its minuteness gives it historical value: a French translation appeared at Paris in 1873. Lister also excited some ridicule by printing an annotated edition of Apicius, ‘De Opsoniis et Condimentis, sive Arte Coquinaria,’ 1705. Only 120 copies were printed, and it is now a scarce work. In his medical writings Lister was very conservative in his attachment to ancient opinions, and severe in his criticisms of Sydenham and Ruysch, though indulging in speculations himself. In 1709, however, in consequence of the illness of Dr. Hannes, he was appointed second physician in ordinary to Queen Anne. Lister died at Epsom 2 Feb. 1712, and was buried in Clapham Church. Though commemorated by Robert Brown in the genus Listera among orchids, his reputation is mainly due to his contributions to zoology. His son Alexander matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford, aged 16, in 1696.

Lister's chief work undoubtedly is his ‘Historia sive Synopsis Methodica Conchyliorum,’ fol., 1685–92, with accurate figures of all shells then known, of which a second edition from the author's notes was published by G. Huddesford in 1770, and an index by L. W. Dillwyn in 1823. The ‘Journey to Paris in the Year 1698’ was included in Pinkerton's ‘Voyages,’ and reprinted by G. Henning in 1823. Sir Charles Lyell has called attention to one of Lister's papers in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ (‘Proposal for a new sort of Maps,’ Phil. Trans., March 1683, xiv. 739) as apparently the first suggestion of geological maps; and a tract of his, ‘De Lapidibus … ad Cochlearum … imaginem figuratis,’ appended to his ‘Historiæ Animalium Angliæ tres tractatus,’ 4to, 1678–1681, is interesting, since in it he adopts Ray's view as to the organic nature of fossils. These three tracts, ‘De Araneis,’ ‘De Cochleis tum terrestribus tum fluviatilibus,’ and ‘De Cochleis Marinis,’ were his first independent work. John Farey published a stratigraphical arrangement of the fossils described there in the ‘Philosophical Magazine’ for August 1819. Among Lister's other works were: ‘J. Godartius of Insects, done into English, with Notes,’ 1682, 4to, with copperplates, only 150 copies being printed, at his own expense; ‘Letters and divers other mixt Discourses in Natural Philosophy,’ 1683, 4to, mostly reprints from the ‘Philosophical Transactions;’ ‘De Thermis et Fontibus Medicatis Angliæ,’ 1684, 8vo, published both at London and at Frankfort and Leipzig; ‘J. Goedartius de Insectis … et Appendices ad Historiam Animalium Angliæ,’ 1685, 8vo; ‘De Cochleis … exoticis,’ 1685, 4to, dedicated to Sloane; ‘Exercitationes … thermarum ac fontium medicatorum Angliæ,’ 1686, 12mo; ‘Exercitatio Anatomica … de Cochleis … et Limacibus,’ 1694, 8vo; ‘Sex Exercitationes Medicinales de quibusdam Morbis Chronicis,’ 1694, 8vo (de hydrope, diabete, hydrophobia, lue venerea, scorbuto, arthritide), of which a second edition, with the addition of tracts ‘de calculo’ and ‘de variolis,’ was issued in 1697, 12mo; ‘Exercitatio Anatomica … de Buccinis,’ 1695, 8vo; ‘Conchyliorum Bivalvium … Exercitatio Anatomica tertia,’ 1696, 4to; ‘S. Sanctorii de Statica Medicina … cum Commentario,’ 1701, 12mo, 2nd edit. 1728, 12mo; ‘Commentariolus in Hippocratem,’ issued as supplement to the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ 1702, 4to; ‘Hippocratis Aphorismi cum Commentariolo,’ 1703, 12mo; and ‘Dissertatio de Humoribus,’ 1709, 8vo.

[Munk's Coll. of Phys. i. 442; Correspondence of John Ray, edited by Edwin Lankester, 1848; Watt's Bibl. Brit. p. 610; Boyer's Annals, 1712, p. 345.]

G. S. B.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.182
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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350 i 41-42 Lister, Martin: omit on the recommendation of Edward Lhuyd [q. v.]