The Two Minute Bio: Robert Wood Johnson

Robert Wood Johnson, (born Feb. 15, 1845, Carbondale, Pa., U.S.—died Feb. 7, 1910, New Brunswick, N.J.), American manufacturer who helped further the cause of modern surgery by developing antiseptic bandages and dressings.

Johnson began his career as an apprentice in a pharmacy and went on to become a retail pharmacist and then a drug broker in New York City. In 1874, he formed the partnership of Seabury & Johnson to manufacture bandages using a new formula employing India rubber. Eleven years later Johnson left that partnership to form the now well-known company of Johnson & Johnson with his brothers James and Edward. The company became known for its high-quality, inexpensive medical supplies and dressings. Johnson held the title of president from the time of the company’s founding until his death in 1910.

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Johnson was an early proponent of the teachings of Joseph Lister, who advocated antiseptic surgery and care of the wound to prevent infection. These theories were still novel during the late 1800s. Johnson worked to develop a dressing that would be as germ-free as possible, from its manufacture in his plants to its eventual use in surgeries across the country.

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