Magazine article Drug Topics
Fame for Pharmacists Often Gained Far from Pharmacy
Pharmacy can be an anonymous profession, but its practitioners have earned the respect and trust of the public, as the Gallup Poll proves every year. Still, it's not too much to wish for a bit of greater glory and renown.
Actually, a number of famous people have ties to pharmacy, and who's to say that those whose links are a bit tenuous and recognition achieved in a different profession don't owe at least some of their success to pharmacy? Hey, National Pharmacy Week is at hand, so why not take the chance to salute the profession in the broadest terms possible-just don't bet the mortgage money on some of the following.
Is America named after a pharmacist? Well, explorer Amerigo Vespucci was a member of the guild of physicians and apothecaries in Florence. An earlier member of the same guild was poet Dante Alighieri of Divine Comedy fame. Maybe the guild just had a great luncheon buffet.
"Dante and Amerigo Vespucci blow me away," said Greg Higby, director of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy. "I don't know what their connections [to pharmacy] are, but there probably are some."
The connections for some other men of letters, whom you may have totally forgotten about if you ever knew them, are less suspect. Dramatist Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906, A Doll's House) was an apprentice pharmacist in Grunstad, Norway. English poet John Keats (17951821, Endymion) trained as an apothecary in the early 1800s. "They were more like physicians than pharmacists," Higby said of English apothecaries of the time. But there is no doubt of the pharmacy roots of the master short story writer William Sydney Porter (18621910), better known by his pen name, O. Henry. "He is legitimate," Higby said. "He even mixes a bit of pharmacy in some of his stories." Porter/O. Henry was licensed in North Carolina and worked in his uncle's store in Greensboro.
Benjamin Franklin's eclectic endeavors included selling patent medicines and drugs from his shop from 1730-49. In 1752, he was instrumental in including an apothecary shop at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. The most famous American politician with an unassailable connection to the pharmacy profession is the late Hubert H. Humphrey, a Democratic Senator from Minnesota and v. …