7 surprising inventions made by pharmacists

25 September 2018
Pharmacists show their creative side
In celebration of World Pharmacist Day, we took a look at some surprising inventions made by pharmacists throughout history. These seven discoveries stem from some pretty unusual and unexpected circumstances.
Vintage Maybelline mascara

The original Maybelline mascara packaging (look at those lashes!)

1. Mascara

In the early 1900s Terry Williams, a young pharmacist made a gift for his sister Mabel, who had recently been unlucky in love. He combined charcoal with Vaseline, and she applied the mixture to her eyelashes. Mabel met her future husband while wearing the mascara and as a wedding gift, Terry named his invention after his sister, Maybelline (combining Mabel and Vaseline).

Vintage pepsi-cola cans

Very, very old Pepsi cans.

2. Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper and Pepsi

The inventors of Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper and Pepsi were all pharmacists which may seem surprising, but in the 1880s most American drugstores also housed a soda fountain.

The inventor of Coca-Cola was addicted to morphine and created the soft drink as a morphine-free alternative. Dr Pepper was named after an actual doctor, while Pepsi got its name because the creator believed the drink aided digestion, like the pepsin enzyme.

Alexander Fleming

Alexander Fleming looking serious.

3. Penicillin

Alexander Fleming was a microbiologist and pharmacologist who accidentally discovered penicillin. Fleming was a messy researcher who left a stack of staphylococci cultures on his desk while away on a month-long holiday. On his return, he noticed one of the cultures had been destroyed by a fungus that he would later use to develop penicillin.

Vintage poster of baby formula

A formula poster that came later.

4. Baby formula

Heinrich Nestle was a pharmacist and developed the first substitute for mother's milk by mixing cow’s milk, wheat flour and sugar. The product went on to save many premature babies in the late 1800s.

painting of emperor napoleon the third

Emperor Napoleon III and his moustache.

5. Margarine

Margarine was invented by a French chemist responding to a challenge set by Emperor Napoleon III to create a butter substitute for the lower classes. Years later it was sold to a German pharmacist who founded the first margarine factory and the rest is history.

Joseph Swan in his workshop

Joseph Swan looking at his light bulb.

6. Incandescent light bulb

Joseph Swan was a chemist responsible for developing the first incandescent light. Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Edison merely improved the original design a decade later. Swan successfully sued Edison for patent infringement and Edison was forced to make Swan a partner in his electric company.

Vintage bondi beach poster

Old beach poster demonstrating how hot it was in Australia.

7. Sunscreen

The inventor of sunscreen was, of course, an Australian. Milton Blake experimented with creams in his kitchen in the 1930s. It was a different Australian who later created the first viable sunscreen, but he was a scientist.