Abstract: Revolving Doors and the Circulation of Administrative Knowledge in the Post-War Pharmaceutical Enterprise

Dominique A. Tobbell


Between 1940 and the early 1950s, the American pharmaceutical industry underwent a transformation. Due to changes in the research and regulatory environments, the industry went from being one dominated by small and medium-sized companies specializing in the bulk manufacture of fine chemicals or the wholesale manufacture of pharmaceuticals to one dominated by several large, fully integrated companies with extensive research facilities, growing medical departments, and significant marketing capabilities. This transformation did not come about smoothly; it required the concerted efforts of industrial and academic researchers, corporate managers, and government officials. Moreover, the changes taking place in the pharmaceutical industry depended upon the circulation of administrative knowledge between government and academic science administrators and corporate executives. Taking Merck & Co. as a case study, this paper explores the circulation of administrative knowledge throughout a network composed of people and institutions from the drug industry, academia, and the government, and shows how critical this knowledge network was to the success and growth not only of Merck but also of the industry at large in the decade after World War II.