Who Was Wilbur Scoville?

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Prof. Wilber L. Scoville

Professor Wilber
Lincoln Scoville

Who was Wilbur Scoville? No clue.

So why, of all the thousands of hits you'll get from typing "Scoville" into any common search engine, did I never find any of this? This took more digging than I expected. Answer: Search engines are companies and companies need money. Free education? Go buy some hot sauce from these sponsor links instead!! Ok don't buy; just click-through.

Ah well, I feel better. Here's what I've tracked down so far. I'm running into dead ends and need assistance. Share whatever you know.

He was born at the end of the Civil War in Bridgeport, Connecticut on January 22 1865. He died. Really. In 1942. Whoo, 77 years young. Must of been the hot peppers. I don't know where/how he shuffled off.

He married Cora B. Upham on September 1, 1891 in Wollaston (Quincy, Massachusetts). He had two children, Amy Augusta, born Aug 21, 1892 and Ruth Upham, born Oct 21, 1897.

Parke Davis was founded in a Detroit drugstore in 1866 and they built the world's first pharmacological research labratory in 1902. And hired many an obsessed scientist to help figure out fun things like narcotics development.

Way-Back Machine: 1912 is still "the wild, wild west", New Mexico and Arizona become the 47th and 48th states respectivly. Common folks gawk at dem rich people with automobiles, the NY Times just put up a huge electronic bulletin board in Times Square, and Coca-Cola costs 5¢ but doesn't "relieve fatigue" like it used to. The Roosevelt/Taft/Wilson presidential election, and of course - the Titanic sinks April 15 of that year. There was no television, the cost of a first class postage stamp in 1912 was 2¢ and Wilber developed a method to measure the heat level of chile peppers.

I don't know if/where he went to school or when he joined Parke Davis.

Wilber Scoville worked at Parke Davis during an interesting time, like when they were marketing many types of refined cocaine and cannabis extracts. Competitor Bayer's big product at the time was heroin cough syrup. (and Merck is producing cocaine by the ton.) Ah, medicine and science! This has nothing to do with Professor Wilber other than to say, this was probably the perfect time to subject people to capsaicin-induced pain and then question them about it.

Wilber was treasuer and secetary for the American Conference of Pharmaceutical Faculties from 1901 thru 1904.

Wilber Scoville won two awards from the American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) - in 1922 he was awarded the Ebert Prize and in 1929 the Remington Honor Medal. Coincidentally the Ebert Prize is given to "...recognize the author(s) of the best report of original investigation of a medicinal substance..."

He won APhA's top award in 1929, he also received an honary Doctor of Science from Columbia University that same year. I'm assuming it was for the Art of Compounding and not the S.O.T. but Parke Davis Co. was spitting out patents and products even faster than the other 4 big drug companies.

"The Art of Compounding" was a hugely popular work, first published in 1895 and was a pharmacological reference until at least 1960 (8+ editions). He completely re-wrote a Harry Beckwith book in it's 4th revision "How To Get Registered: Home Study for Pharmaceutical Students" in 1909. And, he did another book called "Extracts amp; Perfumes" containing hundreds of formulations... after all, he understands the art of compounding. :-) (Scholarly type rare book stores can still locate these originals.)

What makes this quasi-compleat is that I cannot find data to substantiate the 1912 date, the original research papers, what building he worked in, his family life, etc... Then again with 1914 bringing large-scale death and destruction worldwide... I'm sure with a bit more research we could track his parents and immediate family, but I'm running out of resources. (Brittanica, Groliers, World Book, etc have no mention of him.)

That's the point; he's unknown because it wasn't important to the whole world... even for us he didn't exist but for this one act. People were more interested in the new inventions of the times - and war. Categorizing the heat levels of a plant no one eats? Nobody cared. And the Art of Compounding, well, you'd have to be a geeky apothecary type to know or care - back then that would probably be larger than chile geeks.

If you have any additional data (or corrections) please email or post publically.

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