On a whim, I decided to go in a different direction with this month’s WINC article. Okay, to be totally honest, I ran out of original ideas for summertime medical content. Last summer I touched on bug bites, sunscreens, and the many benefits of water, but this month I drew a blank. Fortunately, during one of our recent pop-up thunderstorms, a crack of lightning reminded me of Benjamin Franklin and his fool-hardy stunt with a kite and a key. (See last month’s WINC article about the dumb stunts that men pull.) For an accurate account of what really happened that day, go to www.fi.edu and read the article about Franklin and the kite experiment.
What you may not know about old Ben was that he was actually a pharmacist. He helped to establish the first public hospital in the United States and the first hospital pharmacy. In his early years he worked as a clerk in a mercantile store where he dispensed herbs and medicines. While doing so, he would also dispense health advice for the customers and is credited for such quotes as “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That second quote describes preventive medicine as we know it today. Let’s look at some other “Phamous Pharmacists” whose names you might recognize.
John Pemberton patented Coca-Cola as a medication in the late 19th century. He was injured during the Civil War and created the original formula, a mixture of coca leaves and kola nuts, to assist himself and his patients, who were heavily addicted to opioids, to wean off the drugs. Pemberton advertised his product in the Atlanta Journal and it gained immediate popularity. To raise money to support his addiction and to support his family, Pemberton then sold this patent to the Coca-Cola Company, and a household name was born.
Agatha Christie is best known as a crime novelist and playwright, but during the First World War, she served in a hospital as a pharmacist. Intrigued by poisons, she used her expertise as a pharmacist as the basis for her stories. Her famous novel on a case of thallium poisoning, The Pale Horse, led to the correct diagnosis of several real-life cases. Her books have sold over 2 billion copies worldwide.
Charles Alderton worked as a pharmacist in a drug store in Waco, Texas in the late 1800s. He noticed the customers growing bored with the traditional soda flavors of that time period and created a carbonated drink with a flavor that smelled similar to all of the various fruit syrups used in the store to make sodas. The result was a beverage with 23 different ingredients that remains highly popular to this day. Dr. Pepper: “The friendly pepper upper.”
Benjamin Green, an airman in the Second World War, initially applied a type of red veterinary petrolatum to his skin to protect himself from harmful UV rays during wartime. After the war he added other substances to develop what would ultimately become the basis for the suntan product manufactured by Coppertone.
Hubert Humphrey worked as a pharmacist in his father’s drugstore in the 1930s and went on to enjoy a highly successful career in politics as a U.S. Senator for the State of Minnesota, and then as Vice President of the United States. Some of the most notable accomplishments of his political career included chairing the advisory council for the Peace Corps, chairing the Civil Rights Council, organizing an antipoverty program, and working with Congress to enact Medicare.
Sir Isaac Newton, the man who changed the world with his theory of gravity, served as an apprentice apothecary in Grantham, England, living with the town’s apothecary at Cambridge, where he began his illustrious career in physics and mathematics.
O. Henry worked in his uncle’s drugstore as a teenager and became a pharmacist at the age of 19. We know him best as the author of The Gift of the Magi.
Unlike good ole Ben Franklin, I highly doubt that I will ever do anything noteworthy enough to get my picture on the hundred-dollar bill. But I’ll be totally content with being known, not only for “dispensing herbs and medicines,” but also for making sure my patients know how to use them properly.