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Edward Robinson Squibb Edit Profile

pharmacist , chemist , physician

Edward Robinson Squibb was an American pharmacist, chemist and physician.


Edward Robinson Squibb was born on July 4, 1819 in Wilmington, Delaware, of Quaker parents, James R. Squibb and Catherine H. (Bonsal) Squibb.


After his boyhood days in Wilmington, where he pursued his studies under the guidance of a tutor, he began an apprenticeship under Warder Morris, a druggist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1837 and completed it under J. H. Sprague, another Philadelphia druggist, at the end of five years. He graduated from Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, in 1845 with the degree of M.D.


He practised medicine in Philadelphia for two years and held the positions of assistant demonstrator of anatomy, curator of the museum, and clerk of the clinic at Jefferson Medical College.

On April 26, 1847, he accepted a commission as assistant surgeon in the United States navy; he spent the next four years at sea as medical officer on the Perry, the Erie, and the Cumberland in Mexican and South American waters and on the Mediterranean.

In 1851 he was assigned to duty at the naval hospital in Brooklyn, New York, where he began his career as a manufacturing pharmacist and chemist. It is believed that his experiences at sea with drugs and medicines of poor quality supplied to the navy were largely responsible for starting him on this career; it is known that he set about attempting to secure better supplies almost immediately after his arrival in Brooklyn.

It was largely through his efforts that the Navy Department was authorized to establish its own laboratory, of which he became assistant director in 1852, for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and chemicals. The equipment installed was for the most part crude, much of it having been designed and built by Squibb himself, yet the laboratory was a success from the start. Here ether was first manufactured by the use of steam heat instead of an open flame; the first Squibb still for the manufacture of anesthetic ether was built; processes were perfected for the manufacture of chloroform, fluid extracts, bismuth salts, calcium chloride, benzoic acid, aconite and ergot preparations, and methods were devised for the assay of opium, potent tinctures, and powdered extracts.

From 1853 until 1857, when the laboratory was discontinued for lack of funds, Squibb was director. Within the same year he resigned from the navy and accepted the position of manufacturing co-partner in the firm of Thomas E. Jenkins & Company of Louisville, Kentucky , known as the Louisville Chemical Works. About this time the suggestion was made to him by Dr. Richard Sherwood Satterlee, then chief medical purveyor of the army, that he start a laboratory of his own from which the army could purchase its drugs and chemicals with the assurance that they would be of high purity and strength.

In 1858 he established in Brooklyn the first Squibb chemical and pharmaceutical laboratory under the name of Edward R. Squibb, M.D. Just as the work of the new establishment was getting well under way, it was completely destroyed by fire that resulted from an explosion of ether, and Squibb was severely burned. During his convalescence, however, he drafted plans for rebuilding, and a year later a new laboratory was erected.

In 1892 he admitted his two sons to copartnership and changed the name of the firm to E. R. Squibb & Sons.

Shortly after his retirement in 1895, his health began to fail, and five years later he died at his home in Brooklyn, New York.


  • Squibb was a pioneer in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and chemicals, and one of the leaders in independent chemical research in the United States. He was recognized as an authority on the United States Pharmacopoeia, in the revision of which he took a leading part. His studies and his work in improving the process of percolation were perhaps his greatest contribution to pure pharmacy.



He was a member of the American Pharmaceutical Association and other numerous scientific societies.


He was married Caroline F. Lownds Cook of Philadelphia on October 7, 1852. They had three children, a daughter and two sons.

James R. Squibb

Catherine H. (Bonsai) Squibb

Caroline F. Lownds