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Harvey W. Wiley

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Harvey W. Wiley

1st Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

In Office:

January 1, 1907 - March 15, 1912

Preceded by: none

Succeeded by: Carl L. Alsberg

Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, M.D. (October 30, 1844 - June 30, 1930)was an American chemist and the first Chief of the U.S. Bureau of Chemistry, later known as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.



Wiley was born in 1844 to a poor, strictly religious, farming family in Southern Indiana. Wiley's early education came from his father, a schoolmaster. In 1863, he entered Hanover College. Despite his education being interrupted by the American Civil War, he eventually received his diploma. In 1868, he became an apprentice to a Kentucky physician.

While teaching the classics at an Indiana University, that same year, he attended Indiana Medical College. He received his M.D. in 1871. After receiving his degree, he continued to teach chemistry at three separate schools until 1874, when he became a chemistry professor at the newly formed Purdue University.

In 1878, Wiley traveled to Germany to study the new field of the chemistry of food. He returned to Purdue to continue his professorship and simultaneously served as the Indiana state chemist.

Adulteration and Mislabeling of Food

While at Purdue, Wiley wrote his first paper on the adulteration of sugar. Indiana sugar, he contended was being cheapened with glucose. Fighting adulteration and mislabeling of foodstuffs would become the chief battles of Wiley's career.

In 1883, Wiley was chosen as the chief chemist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He soon became the chief proponent of legislature aimed at banning adulteration and mislabeling of food.

The Coca-Cola Case

Good Houskeeping political cartoon showing Harvey W. Wiley explaining the "evils" of Coca-Cola
Good Houskeeping political cartoon showing Harvey W. Wiley explaining the "evils" of Coca-Cola

While Wiley was just getting into his new post in Washington, Coca-Cola had just been invented in 1886 by John Pemberton, a pharmacist in Atlanta, Georgia.[1] Coca-Cola was unique because it skirted the border between food and medicine. The product was originally marketed as a tonic and contained extracts of cocaine as well as the caffeine-rich kola nut.

Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906

Meanwhile, Wiley was laboring in Congress to get the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 passed which would ban adulteration and mislabeling. Initially, Ada and his brother John Candler, a lawyer and former Georgia judge, promoted the law thinking that they could market Coca-Cola as a "pure" product and prevent competiion from other companies using cocaine in their beverages. But despite the Candler's efforts, Wiley still opposed the beverage for its caffeine content and the rumor that the drink still contained cocaine.[2]


  1. Bellis, Mary."The History of Coca Cola." 2008. About, Inc. Accessed on June 2, 2008.
  2. Pendergrast, Mark. </uFor God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It. 2000:Basic Books; 2nd ed., rev. and expanded edition. p. 109.