History of the AIHP

Why the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy was Organized at Madison, Wisconsin

(Reprinted from The Badger Pharmacist March 1941)

  1. Introductory Remarks
  2. Libraries in Madison
  3. The Pharmaceutico-Historical Collections at Madison
  4. Pharmaceutico-Historical Instruction and Work at Madison, WI
  5. The general preparedness at Madison for the conception and promotion of an American Institute of the History of Pharmacy
  6. Conclusion

1. Introductory Remarks 

It is but natural that the question will be asked and has to be answered why the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, unique at least on American soil as it is, and universal in its task and objectives as it intends to be, has been organized at Madison, Wisconsin. There are cities in this country larger than this rather small capital and educational center of one of the younger states of the North American Union, cities more prominent in the political past as well as in the economical present of America. If populace and the role played in the historical development and in the present economical life of the American Continent were the decisive factors for the choice of a place most apt for the establishment of an American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, Madison’s chances would be very small indeed. Even if it were an internal question among the Schools or Colleges of Pharmacy to which of them the task of patronage of an American Institute of the History of Pharmacy should be assigned, the School of Pharmacy of the University of Wisconsin would have to face serious competition. There is no doubt that, to quote only one example, the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science with its glorious past and brilliant present as well as the fact that History of Pharmacy has always been cultivated by the members of its faculty and in the columns of its journal, would have a very well justified claim. The reason that, nevertheless, Madison became the place of foundation and residence of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy is very simple. Madison is the only place within America really ready for an institution like that. It offers a unique collection of books, journals and other material of pharmaceutico-historical interest, the necessary general and pharmaceutical atmosphere, and finally the intellectual and substantial preparedness of the people concerned. The foundation of an Institute of the History of Pharmacy at Madison is, therefore, not a matter of chance, but of destiny. It is the fulfillment of a long and consistent development. It is finally the crowning of the life work of a great man: Dr. Edward Kremers.

2. The Libraries in Madison 

The total number of bound volumes contained in the libraries in Madison open to scientific or public use is about 1,100,000, and the number of pamphlets exceeds 400,000. The bulk of the books and pamphlets, etc. is housed in the general library building on the campus, the remaining ones on or around the campus.

A. The Pharmaceutical Section of the Library of the University of Wisconsin  The Pharmaceutical Section of the Library of the University of Wisconsin is a unique institution within the United States, especially as far as material pertaining to pharmaceutico-historical knowledge and research is concerned. In this regard it is not second even to the Lloyd Library at Cincinnati, and not often equaled in Europe. The following survey conveys an idea of its contents as far as historically important material is concerned: The most important books on drugs which came down to us from Greek and Roman antiquity (Dioscorides, Paulos of Aegina, Celsus, Galen, etc.) are represented by early prints or, sometimes even in addition, by annotated translations into different modern languages. The same holds true for the medieval and post medieval literature concerned. The early chemico-therapeutical or iatrochemical literature (Du Chesne or Quercetanus, Oswald Croll, Glauber, etc.) is represented to the same extent as are the books on herbs (Kraeuterbuecher and Distillierbuecher) of the 16th and later centuries. Of the reprints mentioned above, the most remarkable are the reproduction of the famous Vienna Dioscorides Codex with the drawings of Krateuas, (5th century) , the so-called Badianus manuscript, concerning the medicinal drugs of the Aztecs, and the Hortus Sanitatis, one of the earliest (late 15th century) printed books on herbs and their use in medicine. Among the literature pertaining to vegetable drugs and especially indigenous American drugs, the collection of different editions of the first scientific description devoted to them, viz. that of Monardes, deserves special attention. The library owns a copy of the very rare original Spanish edition, the Latin translation edited by Clusius (Charles l’Écluse), and later French, English, Italian and German translations, affording a unique possibility of comparative study and illumination of the terms concerned. Of special completeness is the collection of pharmacopoeias, dispensatories and commentaries, and of the formularies preceding them from the Antidotaria Nicolai and the Grabadin of Pseudo-Mesue to the different official pharmacopoeias of the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and finally those being in force at the present all over the world. Where early pharmacopoeias could not be obtained in original or in reprints, photostatic copies are provided as for instance of the first issue of the first official pharmacopoeia of the European world, the Ricettario Fiorentino (1498) and of the two issues of the first official English formulary, the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis of 1618. The famous Dispensatorium of Valerius Cordus as well as the Pharmacopoeia Augustana are represented by different editions. The same holds true for several other pharmacopoeias of special importance. The London, Edinburgh and Dublin pharmacopoeias as well as the dispensatories intended as commentaries are there in almost complete sets. Of the many unofficial pharmacopoeias preserved in the library those of the Frenchmen Charas and Léméry, of the Englishman James, of the Germans Schroeder, (Schroeder-Hoffman), Mylius and Zwelfer may be mentioned. The different attempts at a Universal Pharmacopoeia, purporting to comprehend practically all the official and the most important unofficial formulae used within the civilized world in the period concerned can also be found in the Pharmaceutical Section of the Library of the University of Wisconsin. There are preserved e.g. Jungken’s Corpus Pharmaceutico-Chymico-Medicum Universale (1694), Jourdan’s Pharmacopée Universelle (1828), Geiger-Mohr’s Pharmacopoeia Universalis (started in 1835). It is almost self-evident but may nevertheless be mentioned that there is a complete set of the United States Pharmacopoeia and its American predecessors accompanied by the literature belonging to it. The French, German, and English reference and textbook literature from the 17th century to the present and, naturally, the respective American literature from its very beginning is excellently represented, whereby the literature on the economical and legal situation of pharmacy has found the same attention as that on the sciences, the technique, and the retail practice of pharmacy. The collection of pharmaceutical journals contained in the Pharmaceutical Section of the Library of the University of Wisconsin is one of the most complete to be found anywhere. The important French, German, English, Italian, Scandinavian, Dutch, etc. journals devoted to pharmacy are preserved in this library in complete or almost complete sets from their very beginning in the end of the 18th or early 19th centuries until the present or the discontinuation of their appearance. An experience made by the writer of these lines may illustrate the extraordinary completeness of this collection. When working on his History of German Pharmacy (Adlung-Urdang, Grundriss der Geschichte der Deuctschen Pharmazie,Julius Springer, Berlin 1935), he wanted to examine the title and the contents of the first copy of the Almanach oder Taschenbuch für Scheidekünstler und Apothker (1780). None of the great libraries in Berlin had this copy and it took some inquiries before it finally could be located in the library of the University of Goettingen. The Pharmaceutical Section of the Library of the University of Wisconsin contains a complete set of the Almanach including the very rare first copy. It seems scarcely necessary to stress the fact that all important American pharmaceutical journals including those with primarily commercial tendency are represented in the library in complete sets.

The pharmaceutico-historical literature, i.e., books and pamphlets on the historical development of pharmacy at large or in various countries or cities, in its special branches including manufacturing and wholesale, on prominent men and events, on special situations, institutions and problems, etc. has been stored on the shelves of the Pharmaceutical Section of the Library of the University of Wisconsin in a completeness which may be equalled only in a very few cases in some other part of the world. As a special feature the collection of material concerning the role played by the apothecary in fiction as well as in the fine arts has to be mentioned. It is impossible to describe the treasures of this library in full within the frame of a memorandum. Suffice it to summarize its real meaning and importance by the statement that from the very beginning of the establishment of the Pharmaceutical Section of the Library of the University of Wisconsin about half a century ago up to the present, pharmaceutico-historical knowledge has been its basis as well as one of its main objectives.

B. The Libraries of the Humanities and the Non-Pharmaceutical Science Departments of the University of Wisconsin   The libraries of the University departments of medicine, chemistry, botany, physics, zoology, biology, agriculture, engineering, etc. as well as those belonging to the humanities are unusually well equipped with reference books on the history of their special fields and other material of more or less immediate interest to pharmacy. Thus they offer a splendid supplement to the stock of the pharmaceutical library. Only recently the University of Wisconsin acquired the private library of the late Dr. William Snow Miller, former Professor of Anatomy and historian of medicine at Wisconsin, containing many historically important books which are not even in the surgeon general’s library at Washington. Of the treasures of Dr. Snow Miller which are to form a special part of the Library of the Wisconsin University Medical School, the works of Fallopius and Paracelsus in early (15th century) editions and many others are of pharmaceutico-historical as well as of medical interest. It conveys an idea of the importance of the books of the general (humanities) library to pharmaceutico-historical research if one realizes the fact that it contains Dioscorides in the Greek, Pliny in the Latin original and in translation, many of the works attributed to Hippocrates and written about him and the annotated and translated texts of the Papyri Ebers, Smith, etc. The entire bibliographic service of the country is made available through the office of the Director of the University Library.

C. The Library of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin  The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, organized in the early part of 1849, i.e., scarcely one year after Wisconsin became a state, is exceptionally well equipped with printed and manuscript colonial records and government documents, state and federal, with United States newspapers, biographical material and reports concerning American travel, e.g., the Jesuit relations. Within this frame, naturally, material of interest to the development of American pharmacy, the use and the cultivation of medicinal plants, etc. can be expected and has indeed been found and used. It may be mentioned that the Library of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin owns a copy of the Catalogue of the Library of the British Museum thus making possible the checking as to title, year of publication, etc. of rare books, preserved in the great English collection, and finally the providing of photostatic reproductions.

D. Other Libraries in Madison  There are furthermore in Madison the Library of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters, containing a valuable collection of reports and transactions of learned societies, the Legislative Reference Library, the State Law Library and finally the Madison Free Library. All these libraries have proved of occasional value to pharmaceutico-historical research.

3. The Pharmaceutico-Historical Collections at Madison

A. Collections Preserved Within the School of Pharmacy  The pharmaceutico-historical collections preserved within the School of Pharmacy of the University of Wisconsin may be divided into three groups.

  1. Collections purchased or donated for the immediate purpose of instruction within the regular pharmacy course.
  2. The collections of Dr. Kremers.
  3. The collections of Dr. Richtmann.
  1. School Collections  Besides the usual collections of chemicals and drugs to be found in most of the schools or colleges of pharmacy, a collection of Ceylon and Johore drugs, especially illustrative of the natural history of Cinchona bark, and a collection of Malay, Philippine and Chinese drugs, are of special interest.
  2. Collections of Dr. Kremers  Printed and manuscript material on the History of Pharmacy with special regard to the history of American pharmacy. In securing since almost 50 years the available printed material including reprints and clippings from pharmaceutical and other journals, etc. on current and past events as well as on individuals of pharmaceutical interest, and in preserving a sweeping correspondence with practically all outstanding American pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists and with many representatives of the European pharmaceutical world, Dr. Kremers had brought together a very comprehensive collection. Many files are filled with notes and material on the development of the individual associations, special meetings, and prominent officers. Others are devoted to the development of American pharmaceutical education and to the legal situation of American pharmacy. A special collection concerns manufacturing pharmacy and the wholesale drug trade. it consists of illustrated volumes, anniversary publications, advertising brochures, scientific reports, notes and pamphlets, etc. issued by the firms concerned from about 1900 until the present. The biographical material brought together is especially comprehensive and unique. Slides. There is a collection of slides, totalling over a 1000 and representing a unique selection of the pictorial material on pharmacy and chemistry available. The use of these slides is facilitated by a card catalogue as well as inventory. Encyclopedic dictionary. A collection of cards containing brief information or references on all possible subjects of pharmaceutical or related interest has been started with the intention of developing a pharmaceutical encyclopedia. The respective files contain at present more than 150,000 cards. Some years ago 50 cards were published in order to convey an idea of the kind of information and arrangement intended. Much other material has been partly edited for future publication.
  3. Collections of Dr. Richtmann  Collections of literature on drugs with special reference to those of American origin aimed at effecting an inventory of all data by authors, countries and chronology concerning the drugs, their natural history, contents, uses, cultivation and their role in general history, in custom and in superstition. A special collection has been devoted to botanical names as to personal names, therapeutic properties, geographical and ecological habitats. A bibliography of illustrations of medicinal plants, separated into references to colored and black and white ones respectively, covers the field of plant-iconography. Material concerning the development leading to the modern binominal nomenclature in botany previous to, by, and subsequent to Linné. Material concerning the development leading to the modern chemical symbols previous to, by, and subsequent to Berzelius.

B. Collections Preserved Within the Museum of the Wisconsin Historical Society  A Pioneer Wisconsin Drugstore was installed as a unit in the Museum of the Wisconsin Historical Society in the fall of 1918. Starting in 1897 the students and instructional staff of the School of Pharmacy with the cooperation, financial and otherwise, of the Wisconsin Pharmaceutical Association, collected material from all over the state. All of the objects, exhibited in the “store”, had been used in Wisconsin pharmacies during the first 50 years of statehood (1848 to 1898). The arrangement of the material as a unit is largely the work of the Custodian of the Historical Museum, Charles E. Brown.

4. Pharmaceutico-Historical Instruction and Work at Madison, WI

A. Pharmaceutico-Historical Instruction  In the catalogue of the University of Wisconsin for 1897-98 we find two announcements concerning the historical treatment of subjects within the pharmaceutical curriculum. Mr. Fischer announced “history of pharmacopoeias and discussion of U.S. Pharmacopoeia”, a subject taken over by Dr. Richtmann in the academic year 1898-99, and Dr. Meyer promised within his lecture on the economic functions of the State the “historical and critical discussion” of the relations of the state to industry, trade and the professions, “with special reference to pharmacy”. It was in 1902 that on the initiative of Dr. Kremers steps were taken toward the organization of a Historical Section of the American Pharmaceutical Association by the appointment of a committee and it was at about the same time that he started in his home a kind of seminar on the history of pharmacy and chemistry. This instruction was informal, a gathering of senior and graduate students with the professor serving more as a pathfinder directing the way of search and orientation into this fascinating field of enlightenment than as a teacher. By inviting colleagues of the departments of the Classics and of Medieval History, etc. when the subjects of discussion made the presence and aid of experts in the languages or periods of time concerned desirable, Dr. Kremers met two ends. He enlarged the scope and elevated the level of his lectures and he made the latter recognized and popular on the campus of the University. In the University Catalogue 1907/1908 History of Pharmacy as well as History of Chemistry appear for the first time officially as recognized subjects of instruction both announced by the same teacher – the Director of the Course of pharmacy. Another announcement of the same man in the same catalogue concerns “pharmacopoeias and their revision, with special reference to the U.S.P.”, i.e., a critical survey on the historical development of the official materia medica represented in and by the pharmacopoeias and on the technique of their revision. Lectures on “the development of state boards of pharmacy in the United States and their legal functions” and the historical lectures on the relations of the State to Pharmacy already met with in the Catalogue of 1897/98, i.e., ten years before, complete this really memorable display of early historical consciousness within an American School of Pharmacy. In 1907/1908 History of Pharmacy was taught in the “second semester every other Wednesday”. In 1911/12 the respective instruction, consisting of “lectures and topics” was extended over three semesters, namely the second, the third, and the fourth. In the University Catalogue for 1922-23 Dr. Richtmann announced for the first time a special lecture on “sources of information of crude vegetable and animal drugs”, since 1930 defined in the catalogue as concerning “the use of the library in locating the literature relating to drugs”. in 1925 Dr. Kremers made his explanatory survey on pharmaceutical journals, textbooks, etc. presented to graduates a special course under the title “pharmaceutical literature”. Since 1935 this course has been continued by Dr. Richtmann. In the course of this development teachers and students advanced from the purely receptive stage of their work to that of research of their own.

B. Pharmaceutico-Historical Work, Done and Planned at Madison

  1. Theses on historical subject  The interest and the cooperation of the students in historical information and work has been promoted at the School of Pharmacy of the University of Wisconsin by the fact that many of them were given pharmaceutico-historical topics for their theses. A great number of Bachelor’s theses, some Master’s theses, and even one Wisconsin University Doctor’s thesis deal with historical or bibliographical problems or tasks.
  2. The Badger Pharmacist  In 1900 the pharmacy students of the University of Wisconsin published under the title The Badger Pharmacist a volume of 292 pages as “a first attempt to bring together all important (historical) information pertaining to pharmacy in one State of the Union”. The same title was chosen for a preconventional publication, published by the Wisconsin Pharmaceutical Association in the interest of its “Jubilee Meeting” in March, April, May, June and July, 1930, and devoted exclusively to the history of pharmacy in Wisconsin. Since 1931 this journal has been continued with the aid of the Eta (Wisconsin) Chapter of Rho Chi and occasional grants of the Wisconsin State Board of Pharmacy and Wisconsin pharmaceutical wholesalers and manufacturers. Abandoning its self-imposed restriction to Wisconsin pharmaceutical history the Badger Pharmacist became the first and only periodical within the United States devoted exclusively to the History of Pharmacy, especially of American Pharmacy. Four issues of the journal, the publication of which was made possible by grants-in-aid from the Hollister Pharmaceutical Library Fund of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, were devoted to the reproduction with comments of documents pertaining to the medicinal supplies within the North American Colonies from 1643 to 1780, namely:
      • April, 1937: “Receipts to Cure Various Disorders” (1643)
      • June, 1938: “The Lititz Pharmacopoeia” (1778)
      • February, 1939: “A Drug List of King Philips War” (1676)
      • December, 1940: “Coste’s Compendium Pharmaceuticum” (1780).

    It is intended to combine these 4 copies of the Badger Pharmacist (together with some additions and corrections as to the Lititz Pharmacopoeia) within one volume in order to facilitate the comparative study of the development of American materia medica between 1643 and 1780.

  3. The Hollister Pharmaceutical Library Fund  As already mentioned the publication of the most important issues of the Badger Pharmacist has been made possible by grants-in-aid from the “Hollister Pharmaceutical Library Fund of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin”. This fund was established in 1914 under the wills of the late Wisconsin pharmacist Albert Henry Hollister and his wife Kittie E. V. Hollister. Originally $12,205 it has grown to more than $35,000. Concerning the object of the fund or the Society administrating it, the late Dr. Joseph Schafer, Superintendent of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, wrote in 1926: “The object of the Society is not to duplicate the valuable pharmaceutical collection of the University of Wisconsin, but to do for pharmaceutical Americana what the Society has been doing for Americana at large, and to do it in the same broad spirit.” The Hollister Pharmaceutical Library Fund, at Madison, administered by one of the leading American Historical Societies, is up to the present the only fund within the United States available for and until now devoted exclusively to the purpose of making possible pharmaceutico-historical publications. Facsimile reprint of the Pharmacopoeia Augustana. The remark of Dr. Schafer quoted above is to be found in the preface to the first publication, the costs of which were paid out of the Hollister Fund of the Wisconsin Historical Society: A volume containing a facsimile reprint of the first edition of the Pharmacopoeia Augustana (1564), edited by Dr. Kremers who also furnished the translation of the articles published by Dr. Theodor Husemann of Goettingen in the Pharmaceutische Zeitung in 1892 and used now as an explanatory introduction to the reprint. What this publication meant to the History of Pharmacy and its students all over the world becomes evident from the fact that of this early and very important pharmacopoeia only two original copies are known to exist. In his preface Dr. Schafer designates the reprint as “the first of the series of reproductions”, with which “the State Historical Society hopes to impart a new stimulus to pharmaceutical historical research everywhere, making it possible to use photographically true copies of the originals”. Planned publication of a facsimile reprint with comments of the first London Pharmacopoeia (1618).It was in consequence of the idea of a “series of reproductions” that the Wisconsin State Historical Society in its capacity as administrator of the Hollister Fund engaged in 1940 the writer of this memorandum for the purpose of investigating the real reasons for the hitherto insufficiently explained withdrawal of the first issue of the first London Pharmacopoeia and its replacement by another, to comment upon the character and the contents of both issues, and to edit the planned facsimile reprint with his comments as an introduction. This investigation was finished within five months, i.e., from April 1 to August 31, 1940. The publication of the volume may be expected in the near future.
  4. The Kremers-Urdang, History of Pharmacy  There was until 1940 no systematic historical survey on the development of American pharmacy. It was on the initiative of Dr. Kremers and in consequence of his plans as well as on the basis of a very fortunate mental harmony as to the arrangement of the subject matter that the author of this memorandum started in July 1939 with the preparation of an historical survey mirroring and explaining the growth of American pharmacy and the development during antiquity and in Europe which it is based upon. This work, published in 1940, under the title Kremers-Urdang, History of Pharmacy, would have been impossible without the abundant material available in Madison. Thus, as stated in the preface to the book, “Madison was the natural birthplace of the history of American pharmacy”.
  5. Slides  It is intended to examine the collection of slides previously mentioned as to their completeness and to add new ones if necessary in order to have a series illustrating every phase of the historical development of pharmacy as completely as possible. For each individual picture a legend will be supplied explaining briefly its significance and referring to sources of further information. These slides will be reproduced on film, and the film together with the legends concerned will be placed at the disposal of all interested individuals and institutions especially of teachers, colleges of pharmacy, and pharmaceutical associations at a non profit price.
  6. Encyclopedic Dictionary  In the last years the work on the encyclopedic dictionary previously mentioned has been done with the assistance of W.P.A. workers. It is being continued with the same cooperation.

5. The general preparedness at Madison for the conception and promotion of an American Institute of the History of Pharmacy 

The position of Wisconsin, its University, and its State Historical Society within the scientific, educational, and, in general, the cultural life of the United States of America does not need any explanation. Everybody who is concerned with the intellectual American development at large knows that it ranks high. It was possible only in such an atmosphere that the pharmaceutico-historical spirit radiating from and cultivated in the School of Pharmacy of the University of Wisconsin could find such a fargoing recognition and assistance:

      1. By the State of Wisconsin which has granted W.P.A. work.
      2. By the University of Wisconsin which generously has responded to the demands of the Staff members of the School in purchasing pharmaceutico-historical literature and in recognizing the special historical features and subjects within the pharmaceutical curriculum.
      3. By the State Historical Society of Wisconsin which has cooperated with Wisconsin pharmacy in housing the Pioneer Drugstore, in administering the Hollister Pharmaceutical Library Fund according to the suggestions of Dr. Kremers, and in placing the rooms and other facilities of the Historical Museum at the disposal of Wisconsin Pharmacy for the purpose of historical exhibitions.

Living within the general atmosphere described, the druggists of the State of Wisconsin, many of whom are former students of the Wisconsin University School of Pharmacy, have probably been more interested in the history of their profession than – until now – the average of their colleagues in other states of the Union. The proceedings of the Wisconsin Pharmaceutical Association prove that there was scarcely one annual meeting without some historical paper or discussion. The support of the Badger Pharmacist by the Association and the State Board of Pharmacy and its cooperation in the building up of the “Pioneer Wisconsin Drugstore” has been mentioned. How consistently this spirit continues to manifest itself becomes evident from the fact that the Wisconsin Pharmaceutical Association actively promotes the foundation of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy by permitting the Secretary of the Association to add the unpaid duties of the business administration of the new institute to the comprehensive work already allotted to him.

6. Conclusion 

It is not the one or the other of the special features, events and publications mentioned above, but the fact of their coordinate and coordinating existence, the impact of their totality that makes Madison the only place within the Americas really ready for the establishment and the maintenance of an Institute of the History of Pharmacy. However, it is not a “Madison” or a “Wisconsin”, it is an “American” institute which a few men have conceived and decided upon on January 22, 1941. The results of almost half a century’s work, experience and growth are placed at the disposal of American pharmacy. Theoretically, it can take and use them or it can leave and lose them. Practically there is no alternative of that kind. American pharmacy has proved to be professionally minded and aware of its cultural importance. Thus its response to a challenge like this is certain. It cannot be anything else but positive.

-GEORGE URDANG.