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Class in now in session: The College of Pharmacy debuts at the University of Minnesota

Adapted from College of Pharmacy professor Yusuf Abul-Hajj and Richard Broderick’s new book From Digitalis to Ziagen:

This year marks the 120th anniversary of the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy. A lot has happened in the last 120 years, but here’s a quick look at some highlights of the College’s earliest days…

Classes at the University of Minnesota’s College of Pharmacy first commenced the morning of October 5, 1892 with a lecture by Frederick Wulling, dean and founder of the college. The average age of his students was 22 and Wulling was all of 26 years old! There were six students in the College’s first class and each was granted a Pharm.D. upon graduation in 1894.

The cost of the two years they spent in pharmacy school? $165.

Professors specialized in “Theory of Pharmacy and Pharmacognosy,” “Materia Medica, Toxicology, and Physiology,” chemistry, and botany.

By 1907, about a third of the college’s 99 students were women and that number climbed even higher during World War I as young men went off to war.

At the time the College of Pharmacy opened, most drugs were derived from plants, and as a result the College started a medicinal plant garden under Wulling, who recognized that the gardens would be key to a pharmacist’s understanding of the drugs they would be prescribing. Via Dr. Edward Newcomb, the gardens later became internationally-known for their great variety of medicinal plants.

Within four years, the medicinal plant garden was nationally recognized for the groundbreaking research (no pun intended) emanating from it, especially in the study and development of digitalis, a diuretic derived from a flowering plant called foxglove. By 1916 it had a greenhouse, drug plant, and milling laboratory.

World War I caused a steep decline in drug importations, leading to a scarcity of medicinal plants, so the College of Pharmacy stepped in to help. Two acres of the medicinal plant gardens were dedicated to the exclusive cultivation of foxglove which produced, by Wulling’s reckoning, some 23,800 eight-ounce bottles of tincture of digitalis and 2,000 capsules of digitalis powder over the course of the war.

Who knew that Minnesota pharmacy students used to cultivate such a functional and expansive garden?

In the coming weeks, we’ll highlight more accomplishments from the College’s earlier days and highlight some of the programs that have positioned the College of Pharmacy atop national rankings.

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