William Erastus Upjohn
Born June 5 1863 – Died October 18 1932
Process of Making Pills
Patent No. 312,041
William Upjohn invented the first dissolvable pill and the means for its
mass production in 1884.
Before pills, medicines were commonly administered in powdered form.
Once pills were created, they were not practical or effective since the
outer shell was hard and did not allow the stomach to digest them properly.
By 1880, Upjohn began developing a friable pill – a pill the thumb could
crush – that did not harden and dissolved easily in the stomach. In 1884 he
invented a machine to mass-produce these pills with a regulated dosage. In
1886, the Upjohn Pill and Granule Company was established, producing these
new pills on a massive scale. The company would manufacture 186 different
medications in pill form over the next century. This dissolvable pill is
similar to what is in use today.
Shortening its name to the Upjohn Company, the company expanded its pills
into a full array of pharmaceutical products in
1902. A multi-billion dollar business, the Upjohn Company was a leader in
the pharmaceutical industry for over 100 years.
After Upjohn merged with Swedish-based Pharmacia AB -- renamed the Pharmacia
Corporation -- in 1995, it was purchased by
Pfizer in 2002.
Upjohn was born in 1863 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was one of twelve children of his physician father. An 1875 graduate of the University of Michigan medical school, he practiced medicine for ten years in Hastings County before he founded the Upjohn Pharmaceutical Company in Kalamazoo. Upjohn was a community humanitarian and he donated money to the Kalamazoo Civic Auditorium, founded the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, and established gardens in Brook Lodge near his Augusta, Michigan summer home.