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Lucas Richert, PhD

Associate Professor
George Urdang Chair in the History of Pharmacy

Lucas Richert (RICK-ert) explores twentieth century pharmacy and medical history, particularly the histories of psychiatry, pharmaceuticals, pharmacy practice, and intoxicants. His research has explored pharmaceutical regulation, the factors separating legal/illegal drugs, and mental health provision. His work, mostly modern and North American-based, has also spotlighted psychedelic drugs and other psychoactive substances. 

He is the author of three monographs and one forthcoming edited collection. A Prescription for Scandal (Lexington, 2014) narrated the Food and Drug Administration's efforts to regulate pharmaceuticals during the Reagan Era, an era of conservatism, consumer choice, and change. Strange Trips (MQUP, 2019) examined the hazy line that separates legal and illegal drugs, medicines and intoxicants, while blending cultural and biomedical factors; Break On Through (The MIT Press, 2019) marked an intervention in histories of psychiatry through an explicit focus on radicalism and its emphasis on social, economic, and political imperatives within mental health. In 2021, Cannabis: Global Histories (The MIT Press) will provide a wide-ranging geographical, temporal, and thematic view of cannabis as both intoxicant and therapeutic substance.

Richert is an affiliate faculty member with the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of History and the Department of Medical History & Bioethics. He is also a member of the Holtz Center for Science & Technology Studies and sits on the steering committee for the Health and Humanities Certificate.

Since January 2018, Richert has served as the co-editor in chief of The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, along with David Herzberg and Nancy Campbell. Under the stewardship of Campbell, Herzberg, and Richert, the journal moved to the University of Chicago Press in January 2019. Richert also acts as the editor in chief of History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals (University of Wisconsin Press). Previously known as Pharmacy in History, the journal was founded in 1959 and it recently formed a partnership with UW Press.

Richert has studied and worked in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Prior to joining University of Wisconsin-Madison in January 2019, Richert was a Lecturer and then a Chancellor's Fellow in the University of Strathclyde's Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH). Before that, he held a federally-funded Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship in Canada and worked in policy at the Health Quality Council (HQC). Richert was awarded graduate degrees from the University of Edinburgh and University of London after beginning his academic studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

In 2019, Richert took up the George Urdang Chair in the History of Pharmacy. The Chair, the only one of its kind in the United States, is named after Urdang, a Jewish German pharmacist, pharmacy editor, pharmacy historian, and refugee from Nazi Germany. Along with Edward Kremers, the School of Pharmacy's second Dean, Urdang researched and published the pathbreaking History of Pharmacy—the first such book in the US—in 1940. As the first Executive Director of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy (AIHP), Urdang established the Institute’s publishing program.

In 1947, the UWSoP hired Urdang as Professor in the History of Pharmacy, and he founded the country’s first graduate program in the discipline, even as he worked closely with colleagues in history across campus. In 1952, Urdang supervised the first History of Science, Medicine, and Technology (HSMT) graduate on the University of Wisconsin campus, Glenn Sonnedecker. Urdang’s varied and prominent experiences and publications in two countries document the history of pharmacy from multiple understudied perspectives, and he proved influential in the history of medicine and science, as well.

As part of his position, Richert serves as the Historical Director for the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, which is based in the UW-Madison School of Pharmacy and was established in 1941 by Urdang, Kremers, and others. The AIHP's mission is to preserve the documents of pharmacy's past and develop materials for understanding the future. Besides pharmacy, the AIHP holds documents related to science, medicine, and technology more broadly. It offers grants and public programming, as well. You can learn more about the Institute's awards, research collections, and publications at 

Dangerous Drugs & Magic Bullets

History of Pharmacy

Psychedelic Historiography

Scientific Integrity & Responsible Conduct of Research