Lister writes to Archibald Geikie (1835-1924), prominent Scottish geologist who investigated much of the British Isles and worked on volcanic activity. In full, "I am much obliged to you. I have heard from Lord Curzon that he will reply & I have further learnt that he takes the precedence of Lord Kitchener by virtue of prior appointment. When I hear from Lord Kitchener, I will let you know...." Signed, "Lister." Lister references Lord Curzon, (1859 –1925), British Conservative statesman, Viceroy of India, and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He is perhaps most associated with the Curzon Line he proposed as the eastern frontier of Poland. He was passed over as Prime Minister in 1923 in favor of Stanley Baldwin. He also refers to British military leader Horatio Herbert Kitchener (1850 –1916).
Joseph Lister and Archibald Geikie were both members of the Royal Society. Lister succeeded Geikie as Foreign Secretary of the Society and in 1895 became its president (through 1900). On November 5, 1898, a banquet was given to honor General Kitchener, Commander of the Egyptian Army, who had won fame for his success at the Battle of Omdurman, taking control of the Sudan. According to The New York Times of November 5, 1898, the “sword of honor… in recognition of his defeat of the dervishes at Omdurman” was given to Kitchener at a banquet held by the Lord Mayor of London. Among the attendees at the banquet, according to The New York Times as well as many other newspapers of the day, was “Joseph Lister, President of the Royal Society,” and “Lord Curzon of Kedleston,” the “newly appointed viceroy of India.” According to “Lord Curzon in India… Selections from his Speeches….” (New York, Macmillan, 1906), Curzon arrived in Bombay to begin as viceroy on December 30, 1898 after a passage that “took three weeks.” The formal hand over took place on January 6, 1899. Shortly before his departure from England, “Lord Curzon was entertained at dinner on November 7, 1898 by The Royal Societies’ Club at their House Club in St. James’s Street.” In his speech at the dinner, Curzon thanked his hosts, saying “I have the privilege of meeting and being entertained by a number of gentlemen who are interested in many branches of scientific inquiry, and not least in that one with which alone I can claim to have any practical connection… geography.” By virtue of these dinners, meetings and banquets, Lister and Geikie who had known one another for many years as colleagues and members of the Royal Society, encountered and perhaps grew to know both Kitchener and Curzon.