Our department has had a rich and distinguished history since its inception as the Department of Pharmacology in 1906. The department’s philosophy was the belief that because pharmacology engendered the overlap of several of the biological sciences, trainees needed a broad range of basic information and research skills to address fundamental and innovative concepts. The department leaders emphasized an open scientific environment where there were no boundaries to the exchange of ideas between students, post-doctoral fellows or faculty. This openness and sharing was and is the core mission of the department. Extensive instruction in biochemistry and the promotion of interdisciplinary collaborations were vital components to the department structure, and it’s scientific legacy was extensive including the association of ten Nobel laureates, two of whom were chairs. Under their leadership and example, the department mentored countless undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and also spawned the careers of numerous investigators who eventually joined the ranks of the most prestigious scientific centers. Throughout its history the department has made major discoveries: Pioneering Nobel electrophysiological experiments which identified classes of nerve fibers leading to the understanding of pain were performed in this department. These studies were the forunner to the contemporary electrophysiology that we take for granted today. They tie-in to the revolutionary pain treatment with the new class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory therapeutics discovered here. Experiments elucidating the mechanism of action of penicillin and commonly used antifungal agents were first described in the department. Recently a recombinant human therapeutic to facilitate assisted reproduction was invented here and represents the first marketable clinical agent developed at Washington University. These findings, in addition to major contributions in fundamental biochemistry and neurophysiology, were the hallmarks of the department. Today, research in the department has grown to represent a broad range of contemporary issues in developmental biology, and as a result of this shift in research focus, the department was renamed Developmental Biology in January 2008. While the emphasis of the department is now on issues of embryonic development, aging and regenerative biology and physiology, its fundamental core values are unchanged. The undaunted quest for innovative cutting edge problem solving in an open, interactive training environment is an uncompromising standard for our department.
Carl and Gerty Cori
"Carl and Gerty Cori arrived at the School of Medicine in 1931 to join the Department of Pharmacology. In 1947, they won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research on the catalytic conversion of glycogen. Six other Nobelists received training under their auspices."
Oliver H. Lowry
Women in Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine
Department Name Change
Chairs of the Department
Washington University Zebrafish Facility
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School of Medicine History
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