Friday, September 12, 2008

Snake Oil Salesman

Royal Holloway College
Royal Holloway College, University of London

I'm currently attending a conference here. It's one of the most astonishingly gorgeous Victorian buildings I know. The university knows it too and apparently the local fire brigade are retained primarily to protect the place. It was built by this man:

Thomas Holloway
Thomas Holloway, 1800-1883

Thomas Holloway was a philanthropist and made his money in advertising, an industry in which he was a pioneer. He also made a pile by selling medications, notably this "general purpose ointment":

General purpose ointment
Holloway's General Purpose Ointment

Modern analysis of Holloway's medications have revealed that they contained no known efficacious ingredients. So there we have the secret to success in the pharmaceutical industry: identify a marginally effective (if at all) medicine and hype its properties to death through weasel advertising. I'm sure Mr Holloway must be laughing in his grave in the knowledge that nothing has changed since his era. But thanks for the building...

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