The innovative personalities of some pharmacists have taken them from being creators of historical concoctions to legends. Interestingly enough, it was only in the 19th century that medical professionals realized that concoctions could be dangerous and that standards in the pharmaceutical industry were necessary. Once the U.S. government standardized the pharmacy industry, some pharmacists, depending on the state they lived in, actually held more power than physicians.
No License Required
In the early 1800s, there were no pharmaceutical regulations or standards in the United States. A person could apprentice in the field of pharmacy for six months then make and sell his own medicinal concoctions, which often resulted in administering the wrong medicine or wrong dose. In 1804 the governor of Louisiana realized the problem and established a board of medical professionals to conduct licensing examinations. In 1808, the board rejected apprenticeship, making it mandatory for students to rely only on a college education. According to the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, Louis J. Dufilho Jr. of Louisiana became the first to pass the exam in 1816, and he is known as the first legitimate pharmacist in the U.S.
Before he discovered electricity, Benjamin Franklin dispensed medicine as a pharmacist. He worked as a clerk in a local mercantile store, where he dispensed medicines, herbs and other cures. Interested in health and naturally inquisitive, with the discovery of electricity he tried administering electrical shock on patients suffering with paralysis to stimulate movement. He found only temporary improvement and saw no advantage to the treatment. In the early 21st century, doctors continue to use the concept of electrical stimulation for immobile muscles.
Before Charles R. Walgreen Sr. became a pharmacist, he worked in a shoe factory and lost part of a finger in an accident. At the advice of his doctor, he became a pharmacist apprentice and later became a pharmacist. Charles Walgreen had a lucky break working for a Chicago pharmacist who eventually retired, giving him the opportunity to buy out the store in 1901. He bought a second store in 1909, incorporated nine Walgreen stores by 1919 and the 100th store in Chicago in 1926. After his death in 1939, his son, Charles Walgreen Jr. continued, building the unstoppable chain to 6,000 stores in 2007.
From Concoction to Legend
Dr. John Stith Pemberton, a local pharmacist, developed the syrup for Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia in 1886. He took it to another local pharmacy for their opinion. They mixed carbonated water to the syrup and sold the delicious and refreshing drink for 5 cents a glass. Oblivious of his mark on history, John Pemberton sold his rights to his partners. Before his death two years later in 1888, he sold the last of the rights to businessman, Mr. Asa G. Candler who helped turn a pharmacist's little concoction into a booming success.
- New Orleans Pharmacy Museum: The History of Louis J. Dufilho, Jr.
- PBS.org: Benjamin Franklin
- The Coca-Cola Company: Teaching the World to Sing
- The Coca-Cola Company: The Chronicle of Coca-Cola
- Walgreens: Walgreens Historical Highlights
- University of New Orleans: Dufilho, Grandchamps, or Peyroux? The Development of Professional Pharmacy in Colonial and Early National American Louisiana
- George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images