A Thing Patented is a Thing Divulged: Francis E. Stewart, George S. Davis, and the Legitimization of Intellectual Property Rights in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, 1879–1911
- Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 64, Number 2, April 2009
- pp. 135-172
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This article examines the efforts of pharmacist and physician Francis E. Stewart to legitimize the commercial introduction of new drugs by reinterpreting the ethical status of patent rights in pharmaceutical manufacturing. I argue that patents had long been understood by the orthodox medical community as an unethical form of medical monopoly and that, as a result, drug companies that marketed their goods primarily to physicians in the years immediately following the Civil War had little room to develop or introduce new products. In collaboration with George S. Davis and the pharmaceutical manufacturing firm Parke, Davis, & Company, Stewart worked to redefine patents as an ethical means of encouraging scientific and commercial innovation. In doing so, he sought to reconcile medical science and commerce so that they were mutually beneficial to one another. However, I also suggest that his efforts had an ironic effect in that they helped legitimatize a form of patent protection that Stewart himself came to believe to be unethical in nature.