Devhra Bennett Jones 2014-02-10 17:30:44
An archival collection is playing an important role in continuing to help define pharmacognosy. In 1958, Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, defined pharmacognosy as “ . . . Descriptive pharmacology dealing with characteristics of crude drugs and simples.” Dorland’s Medical Dictionary published a similar definition that year. Varro E. “Tip” Tyler refused to accept these classifications. He contacted the editors of both publications, insisting that the wording be corrected in future editions. For much of Tyler’s life, he worked tirelessly to promote the field of pharmacognosy— today known as the study of drugs that come from plants and natural products— and to clear up misconceptions of the topic, which was often an uphill battle. Others took notice of Tyler’s passion and, subsequently, of the field of pharmacognosy. The current president of the American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP), Dr. David Newman, recently remarked, “It is due to scientists like Tip Tyler that the information relevant to the use of plants in medicine was systematized and used.” Today, researchers can discover Tyler’s work at the Lloyd Library and Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. The collection, which consists of 50 linear feet in 98 boxes, was donated by Tyler’s wife after his death in 2001 and was fully processed in January 2013. Tyler’s Life and Work Tyler was born in 1926 in Auburn, Nebraska. At 12, he took his first job at a local corner drug store. He went on to earn a BS in pharmacy and a PhD in Pharmacognosy. In 1959, he became the first president of ASP and used this position to raise awareness about the field that many misunderstood or did not take seriously. At ASP’s 1960 conference, he urged members to inspire graduate students to specialize in pharmacognosy and to promote the discipline to administrators to garner increased funding for pharmacognosy departments. “Pharmacognosy is pharmacy’s unique contribution to science and…is the area of greatest potential for discovery, not only of new medicinals, but also for the discovery of principles of basic biochemical and physiological significance,” Tyler noted. He deemed it essential for pharmacognosists to have a venue to publish findings. Tyler was the author or coauthor of more than 270 publications, including A Short History of the American Society of Pharmacognosy, which he widely distributed among leaders and chemists in pharmaceutical manufacturing to educate them about the field. Tyler was named the Lilly Distinguished Professor of Pharmacognosy at Purdue University in 1991, and worked there until his retirement in 1996. When he passed away in 2001, his admirable legacy was touted in the New York Times, and his accomplishments after a life of impassioned advocacy for the field he loved were undeniable. “[Tyler’s] biggest contribution was that he had the best sense of balance in trying to moderate not only the appropriate use of botanical supplements but to also try to hold the industry’s feet to a warm fire,” John Cordaro, president and chief executive of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, noted in the obituary. Tyler’s Legacy Although Tyler faced skeptics in his lifetime, researchers now refer to his work For valuable information and findings. The collection features his bibliographies, clippings, memorabilia, publications, and materials related to his conferences and speaking engagements and includes his master information files on plant products and their use in the practice of pharmacognosy over the ages. Today, the Tyler Papers are among the most highly utilized collections in the Lloyd Library archives. They demonstrate his staunch advocacy that knowledge about herbs and their medicinal uses should be accessible to the general public. This is evidenced by his monthly column in Prevention magazine (1997–2001), where he advised and warned readers about herbal medicine use on topics ranging from Ayurvedic medicine to sexual virility. Tyler’s collection holds reprints of his column, providing researchers with a unified embodiment of popular herb issues during the late-twentieth century. Students enrolled in poison control courses from the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy at the University of Cincinnati are required to investigate herbs and their chemical interaction with pharmaceutical drugs. Tyler’s collected works on herbs and natural products total more than one thousand files. Although the Lloyd Library holds a significant selection of herb resources, often the Tyler Papers have the only documentation regarding obscure herbs (such as Horny Goat Weed). The Tyler Papers are the legacy of a true trailblazer, who forged ahead despite doubt and criticism to advocate for the field he loved. The finding aid to the Varro E. “Tip” Tyler Papers is available on the Lloyd Library website, www.lloydlibrary.org.
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