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Our Heritage Employee Blast from the Past

Meet Fred Kilmer: One of Johnson & Johnson's Earliest Pioneers

The company’s first scientific director was responsible for groundbreaking innovations that surgeons use to this day. But there's a lot more to this Renaissance man's impressive story.
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Fred Kilmer

Image courtesy Johnson & Johnson archives

When brothers James Wood Johnson and Edward Mead Johnson founded Johnson & Johnson 130 years ago with just 14 employees, they probably never dreamed that the company would expand to include 129,000 people working in 60 countries.

In our new series, "Employee Blast from the Past," we'll chronicle the impact that some of Johnson & Johnson's most remarkable staffers have had on the organization, the healthcare industry and, in some cases, the world.

To kick it off, we're celebrating a pharmacist who played a crucial role in building the company into the scientific powerhouse it is today—so much so that he's the namesake of Kilmer House, a historical blog that documents Johnson & Johnson's early days.

The Employee …
Fred Kilmer, Director of Scientific Affairs, 1889-1934

Why He’s So Legendary …
Kilmer—who would have turned 165 this month—began his career as a retail pharmacist, but he found his true calling in promoting antiseptic wound care and sterilization procedures to minimize the risk of infection during surgery—concepts that were revolutionary at the time.

In addition to creating the groundbreaking Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment publication, he established Johnson & Johnson’s Aseptic Department—introducing the idea of “clean rooms” for manufacturing sterile surgical dressings and sutures—and helped design new company buildings to accommodate innovative large steam sterilizers.

But that’s not all.

In addition to his scientific chops, Kilmer was a master of communication, serving as Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Publicity Officer who oversaw advertising and outreach to doctors, pharmacists and the public.

The Renaissance man also gave birth to what ultimately became Johnson & Johnson’s iconic baby business by developing products to help soothe skin irritated from using medicated plasters.

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Kilmer’s cat, Tom Rutgers

Image courtesy Johnson & Johnson archives

What Most People Don't Know …
Kilmer was an inveterate animal lover. He had three cats—one of whom made it onto the pages of Johnson & Johnson's publication for retail pharmacists that Kilmer edited, The Red Cross Messenger, to help illustrate an article about the history of felines in drugstores. He even kept a pet alligator in his pharmacy, located across the street from Johnson & Johnson.

Johnson & Johnson has a virtual museum where you can learn more fun facts about its rich history.
© Albert Vecerka/Esto. All rights reserved.

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