Tuesday, October 2, 2007

My (Civil War) Heroes Have Always Been...Chemists

In researching and writing about the Civil War over the past dozen-plus years, I have come across some personalities that I really admire...that's no surprise, I'm sure...almost anyone who studies the war will come across generals, soldiers, and politicians with whom they especially identify. As a scientist, I tend to identify with people who lent their technical and scientific expertise to the war effort...on both sides, and in the course of writing my forthcoming book, Lincoln's Labels, I became even more familiar with a few of these people, including the "Bomb Brothers" - Gabriel and George Rains; Lammot du Pont, chief chemist at the du Pont powder works during the Civil War; John Maisch, a talented medicinal chemist who worked in the Union medical laboratories; John Mallet, chief chemist at the Confederacy's Nitre and Mining Bureau; and others.

One of my favorites - in no small part because he comes closest to sharing my day job as a pharmaceutical research scientist - is Dr. Edward R. Squibb, founder of the enterprise that would eventually evolve into today's Bristol-Myers Squibb drug company. He played an important part in naval medicine in the Mexican War and a decade afterwards until he founded his own drug house in 1858. During the Civil War he met many of the medical needs of the Union army: he consulted with the army on its standard supply table, and without compromising his strict standards of quality, Squibb filled the army’s orders as quickly as he could, working day and night and hiring additional hands. In 1862 he bought additional land in Brooklyn, near the Fulton Ferry, and built and equipped an expanded laboratory to meet the army’s needs.
I've done a lot of research and writing on Squibb his firm's contributions to military history (those contributions span more than a century). Those article include:

  • “Medicine Men: Squibb and Pfizer in the Civil War,” North & South, February 2007
  • “The Naval Legacy of ‘The House of Squibb,’” Navy Medicine, May/June and July/August 2005
  • “Squibb at War,” World War II, June 2005
I also devote an entire chapter to Dr. Squibb and his role in the Civil War in the forthcoming Lincoln's Labels.

The Navy Medicine articles - as a government publication - used to be freely available as PDFs online through the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, but I think they are currently doing some website changes and maintenance, and they are not available at this time; however, if you'd like to read them - and learn more about Dr. Squibb - just drop me an e-mail at jschmidt at lexpharma dot com and I'll send you the articles.

I'd also like to hear from other people if they have "unconventional" (other than generals, soldiers, politicians, etc.) Civil War personalities that they admire.

Best Regards,

Jim Schmidt

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