Cowen Reference Files

Prof. David Cowen speaks at the 50th anniversary celebration of Rho Chi in 1972 (Courtesy Kremers Reference Files)

The Cowen Reference Files was donated to the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy in the 1990s and early 2000s by pioneering historian of pharmacy David L. Cowen. Consisting of research materials gathered from 1955 until his death in 2006, the Cowen Reference Files contains primary and secondary sources related to the history of pharmacy. Consisting of nearly 6,000 individually numbered items, the Collection contains the broad range of material gathered by Prof. Cowen throughout the course of his career researching and writing about the history of pharmacy. He presented his collection to AIHP, because, he said, “it is unique in the United States as a center for research in the history of pharmacy.”

The index to the Cowen Reference Files can be fully accessed by searching a database at AIHP’s offices at the University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy, where researchers can search across numerous descriptive fields recorded by Prof. Cowen, including: Subject(s), Author(s), Title, Year, Century, and Country of origin.

Read a printed and text-searchable Index of the Cowen Reference Files (.pdf). This printed index includes the following fields: Number (Cowen Reference Files Identification Number), Subject(s), Authors(s), Title, and Year. The printed index is 924 pages long and 4.7 MB.

Access to materials in the Cowen Reference Files requires the permission of the Director of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy. To consult materials in the Cowen Reference Files or for reference assistance please email:

Brief Biography of David Cowen

Born in New York City in 1909, Cowen earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Rutgers University. He subsequently taught in the Newark public schools while also working part-time as a history instructor at the Rutgers Colleges of Pharmacy from 1933 to 1944. He became a full-time faculty member at Rutgers in 1945 and earned full professor status in 1960. Over the course of 70 years from 1934-2004, Cowen published or edited 18 books and authored more than 120 articles. Read a complete Bibliography of Prof. Cowen’s publications.

On his death in 2006, the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy published a memorial to Prof. Cowen in Pharmacy in History, which included tributes from prominent historians of pharmacy, as well as, Cowen’s own 1997 reminiscences about his career. To read AIHP’s tribute to Prof. David L. Cowen,  click here

Prof. David Cowen talks with former AIHP Executive Director Glenn Sonnedecker in 1994 (Courtesy Kremers Reference Files)

Cowen Reference Files

Upon presenting the Cowen Reference Files to AIHP, Prof. Cowen provided a written description of his collection:

“This is a reference collection which has been presented to the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy where it will be the base of its own Reference Files (as distinguished from the Kremers Reference Files). It has been presented to the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy because it is unique in the United States as a center for research in the history of pharmacy.


The Collection—begun in 1955 although it contains earlier Material—consists of approximately 6,000 items described below. The greatest part of the collection pertains to pharmacy and its history, but medicine and allied sciences, chemistry, and science in general are also included and there is a great deal of material in all of these fields. Most of the material is in English, but most of the European languages are included, German, Spanish and Italian especially.

  1. Reprints, tear-sheets, photocopies of journal articles. A good number of reprints are autographed; many items are from obscure or not readily available foreign sources.
  1. Pamphlets, brochures, etc. These cover a wide range from publications, reports and mimeographed hand-outs of pharmaceutical firms to descriptions of museums and pharmacies.
  1. Archival and documentary material. These include, for example, photographs of materials pertaining to pharmacy in the American Revolution and later in the National Archives; copies of documents used by the donor in his own research; programs, etc., of history of pharmacy and history of medicine associations.
  1. Unpublished typescripts of various authors.
  1. Copies of title pages and prefatory material of old dispensatories and pharmacopoeias, especially of the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia.
  1. Miscellany: newspaper clippings, advertisements, obituaries, catalogues, bibliographies. et al.
  1. Unique items: Some few of the items are probably not available elsewhere or would be difficult to obtain. For example, the printed 1936 Berlin dissertation by Herbert Lehmann on the Collegium Medico-chirurgicum; a copy of [Henry A.] Langenham’s Century of the U.S.P.; two volumes of the 1963 Public Hearings before the New Jersey Assembly on proprietary medicines; the mimeographed opinion of the Superior Court of New Jersey 1979 case against Whitehall Laboratories regarding purported anacin-related injuries; manuscript minutes of organization meeting of the New Jersey Pharmaceutical Association, 1870 (copy); material pertaining to the University of the State of New Jersey Department of Pharmacy, 1913; copies of documents in the National Archives on pharmacy in the American Revolution; copies of correspondence relating to penicillin between [Howard W.] Florey and [Norman] Heatley, Florey and [Robert] Coghill, Coghill and Florey, [Philip] Hench and [Alfred] Richards et al.; and biographical materials (copies of biographical articles, writings, obits, bibliographic printouts, notes, correspondence about) on nineteen individuals collected in the preparation of sketches for the American National Biography. (The last includes five pharmacists: [Andrew] Craigie, [Edward] Parrish, [Henry] Kraemer, [John] Maisch and [John] Hurty; one chemist: [Jokichi] Takamine; eleven physicians: Peter Smith, [Franklin] Bache, [George B.] Wood, [John Redman] Coxe, [John] Crawford, [Joseph] Carson, [Robert] Bridges, [John] Archer, John Mitchell, [Charles A.] Lee, [Adoniram] Judson; and one dentist, [John Hugh] McQuillen.) 


The Collection has been indispensable to the research done by the donor. The user at the Institute will find (1) a great deal of material that might not turn up in usual bibliographic sources; (2) material more readily available than by resort to libraries and inter-library loans; and (3) leads to further research. Any researcher in the history of pharmacy and medicine, and related fields, would find it valuable to first search this Collection.


Each item in the collection has been numbered and entered into a data base system… by author, subjects, title, date of publication, etc.”

Rights Information

The American Institute of the History of Pharmacy does not hold the copyright to material in the Cowen Reference Files. The American Institute of the History of Pharmacy can make digital or photocopy reproductions of material from the Cowen Reference Files for the personal and educational use of researchers and patrons. The American Institute of the History of Pharmacy can not provide further permission to reproduce, redistribute, or republish materials in the Cowen Reference Files. Copyright assessment is the responsibility of researchers who make use of the Files. Researchers must determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions when republishing or reproducing material from the Cowen Reference Files.

Actively engaged in preserving the documents of pharmacy's past and developing materials for understanding the future.

AIHP Thanks National Association Sponsors

Read More

AIHP Wants to Document Your COVID-19 Stories and Experiences

AIHP COVID-19 ProjectThe American Institute of the History of Pharmacy is documenting and preserving pharmacy stories and experiences during the COVID-19 global pandemic for the benefit of future historians and scholars. We seek to record the effects of this public health emergency on all types of pharmacy experiences. We invite you to share your pharmacy stories, photos, videos, artifacts, and other documentation of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

You can participate in the AIHP COVID-19 Pandemic Pharmacy Historical Documentation Project either (1) by immediately sharing your thoughts/experiences and/or submitting digital materials or (2) by signifying your to intention to submit materials in the future. Please comply with all applicable local or state stay-at-home orders while self-documenting.

Please click the link below to learn more about participating in the AIHP COVID-19 Pandemic Pharmacy Historical Documentation Project.

Read More

Join AIHP and Subscribe to History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals

Access the Pharmacy in History JSTOR Archive
All past issues of Pharmacy in History have been digitized and are text-searchable at JSTOR.

Note: Academic libraries seeking subscriptions to History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals should directly contact the University of Wisconsin Press.

Read More

Calendar of Events

Upcoming events of interest to historians of pharmacy, pharmaceuticals, medicines, science, and related fields. (Event information current when posted. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, please double-check the status of all events):

May 28-31, 2024: Kremers Seminar in the History of Pharmacy webinars.
June 27-30, 2024: ADHS Biennial Conference, Buffalo, NY.
July 7-11, 2024: International Social Pharmacy Workshop, Banff, Canada.
September 4-7, 2024: 46th International Congress for the History of Pharmacy, Belgrade Serbia.
January 3-6, 2025: Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association, New York City, NY.

Read More