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Happy Birthday, John Jacob Abel!

May 19, 2022

 John Jacob Abel, founder and First President of ASPET

American pharmacologist and physiological chemist John Jacob Abel was born May 19, 1857, in Cleveland, Ohio. He was an instrumental founder of The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. He was elected the first Temporary Chairman at the first organizing meeting in Baltimore, Md., on December 28, 1908. Abel invited 18 pharmacologists to his laboratory at that time, where the new society was born. They agreed that furthering the growth of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics in the United States was critical. He and the founding members organized the management of the society under the direction of seven council members — a President, a Secretary, a Treasurer and four councilors.    

Known as the Father of Pharmacology, Abel made several key contributions to the field, including analysis of the endocrine glands, isolation of adrenaline in the form of a chemical derivative and crystallization of insulin.  

After earning his Ph.B. (Bachelor of Philosophy) from the University of Michigan in 1883, he took several years off to serve as a principal of the high school in La Porte, Indiana. He eventually travelled to Strasbourg, where he earned an M.D. in 1888 from the University of Strasbourg. 

Abel went on to serve as a professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor from 1891-93. While at the U of M, Abel played a key role in developing the first pharmacology department in North America. In 1893, Abel was offered a professorship at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, where he started the Pharmacology Department. As a result, he became America’s first full-time professor of pharmacology. Johns Hopkins is where Abel’s research in pharmacology excelled and where he performed his most groundbreaking research. He was the chair of pharmacology and biological chemistry and later became chair solely of the Department of Pharmacology when the departments split. Abel retired at the age of 75 in 1932. 

Abel directed the Laboratory for Endocrine Research in 1932. Abel also helped establish and edit many important scientific periodicals, including the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, which ASPET still publishes today. 

Abel died on May 26, 1938, in Baltimore, Maryland.  


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