June 24, 1988

Medical Science and Medical Industry: The Formation of the American Pharmaceutical Industry

Author Affiliations

University of Illinois at Chicago

University of Illinois at Chicago


by Jonathan Liebenau, 207 pp, $35, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.

JAMA. 1988;259(24):3628. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03720240080049

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This volume examines the American pharmaceutical industry between 1890 and 1930, when, the author argues, it developed the outline of its modern organizational form. Centering his study on Philadelphia, one of the capitals of drug manufacture, Liebenau concerns himself with how science and technology transformed the operations of existing firms and launched newly structured businesses to meet the changing environment.

One of the virtues of this study is that the author grounds his analysis of this particular economic sector in the context of what was taking place within American industry generally. Thus, Liebenau allows us to see which structural alterations in the drug companies he studied are due more to developments specific to the industry itself and which are more macroeconomic in nature. Certainly, all manufacturing in this era was marked by a greater rationalization of work, changes in the processes of production and distribution, improvements in communication and transportation,