The Listerine website gives this information; it was named "after the English physician Sir Joseph Lister who had performed the first ever antiseptic surgery in 1865." It was first used as a multi-purpose antiseptic and surgical disinfectant. Cool.
And who's Doctor Lister? He became a surgeon during a time when a bloody gutty lab coat was seen as a sign of a surgeon’s knowledge and experience. Influenced by the work of his contemporaries, Louis Pasteur and Friedlieb Runge, he started cleaning wounds and instruments with a carbolic acid solution. He revolutionized what surgeons wear, how the rooms, instruments and wounds are cleaned.
When Dr. Joseph Lawrence and Jordan Wheat Lambert formulated a Listerine in 1879 as surgical antiseptic, they called it for the famous Dr. Lister. A bacterial genus Listeria, was named also after him. It is typified by the food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes, which gives you food-poisoning type bacterial infection called Listeriosis.
I actually know this because (attention: inspiration from real life!) my midwife mom was one of the rare people who got Listeria from another person. She assisted at the birth of a little girl born five weeks early. She wasn't breathing, was little and limp and it was difficult to keep her mouth open with the infant resuscitator. So Mom did mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The revived baby was then tested for what infection could have made her so sick. It was determined that her mom gotten the Listeria bacteria from bad hot dogs a couple weeks before. Because she had had direct contact with the sick baby, Mom broke out with Listeriosis pustules around her mouth not long after. They were her only symptom, but she got her picture taken for a medical journals, since the bacteria is usually ingested and not passed from person to person.
Wow. That's a lot of stories and history from a bathroom product! Does anyone have another common item inspiration?