History of the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology

The Department of Pharmacology at the University of Toronto is among the oldest and largest in North America, with its official foundations established with the appointment of James Thorburne as Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics in 1887, at the same time that the Faculty of Medicine was re-established in the University of Toronto. In 1903 a new building for the teaching of medical undergraduates was opened, and the search began for individuals to lead the preclinical departments of physiology, biochemistry and pharmacology. By 1907, the role of Professor of Pharmacy and Pharmacology had been assumed by Velyien Henderson, one of the fathers of experimental pharmacology in North America, who continued in this capacity until 1945. 

Until the 1970s, undergraduate teaching in pharmacology was directed solely to professional medical students, pharmacy students, dentists and nurses. The Pharmacology Specialist Program first appeared as a collaborative program of the Faculties of Arts & Science and Medicine in 1974-75, followed by the Toxicology Specialist Program in 1981 and the Pharmacology and Toxicology Double Specialist Program in 1991. In 2005 the Department initiated new Majors programs both in Pharmacology and in Toxicology, to meet increasing student demand for these very popular undergraduate disciplines, and to provide enhanced flexibility in student choices for double Majors. There are currently over 300 undergraduate Arts & Science students enrolled in Specialist or Major programs of study in the Department.

Our graduate program has over 160 MSc and PhD students.  In 2015, a course-based field of study was added.

In November, 2007, the Department's name was changed to the "Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology" to better reflect the scope of our activities and undergraduate and graduate programs.