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The history of the Department of Pharmacology


In 1919, Walter Ernest Dixon was appointed Reader in Pharmacology at Cambridge University. Dixon played a major role in the establishment of a Department of Pharmacology at Cambridge. The Wellcome Trust provided the financial support for the construction of a wooden building and circa 1965 the Dixon ‘hut’ was erected in the quadrangle of the Downing site. Its acquisition more than doubled the space available to the Department[1].

Photo courtesy of BJB - Copyright 2001, Nature Publishing Group. The Dixon ‘Hut'. Built around 1965 in the quadrangle of the Downing Site at the University of Cambridge. Now demolished and replaced with the McDonald Institute and occupied by archaeologists.


In 1971, the Department relocated from the Downing site to the Addenbrooke’s site. In 1989, the Department transferred to a new building located on Tennis Court Road.

The Sheild Professorship of Pharmacology was originally established by grace of 7 June 1946 as a personal chair for the tenure of Ernest Basil Verney. By grace of 11 March 1961 the Professorship was re-established on a permanent basis. The Professorship is named in honour of the surgeon Marmaduke Sheild.


In 1962, Arnold S V Burgen (later Sir Arnold Burgen) was appointed to the Sheild chair (later Master of Darwin College).


In 1973, Gustav Victor Rudolf Born (son of Max Born) was appointed to the 3rd Sheild Professorship of Pharmacology.


In 1979, Alan W Cuthbert was appointed to the 4th holder of the Sheild Chair (later Master of Fitzwilliam College).


In 1999, Peter A McNaughton was appointed to the Sheild Professorship.


[1] Alan Cuthbert, The Man Who Never Was – Walter Ernest Dixon, British Journal of Pharmacology, 2001