Del Mar author discusses impact of drugs in latest book


From aspirin to antibiotics, the development of drugs has truly changed the world.

After decades of studying and teaching biology, Del Mar’s Irwin Sherman is now detailing the history and impact of drugs in a new book.

“Drugs That Changed the World: How Therapeutic Agents Shaped Our Lives” discusses about two dozen drugs, detailing how they were developed and how they have impacted the world. The book, published by CRC Press, looks at antibiotics, anesthesia, hormone therapies, psychotropic drugs and a variety of other vaccines.

“It’s appreciation of the people and the product that I wanted to get across,” Sherman said.

A New York native, Sherman studied biology at City College of New York. He first became fascinated with infectious disease agents during a two-year tour of duty with the U.S. Army in Europe, where he worked in a medical laboratory.

After the Army, Sherman earned his master’s and doctorate degrees from Northwestern University. He then extended his graduate studies on the biochemistry of malaria as a post-doctoral fellow at Rockefeller University.

Sherman, who is known for his studies of malaria, started as an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside, in 1962. He served the university for 42 years and retired as acting executive vice chancellor in 2004.

A biology professor emeritus, Sherman was a visiting investigator at Scripps Research Institute from 2004 to 2012. He currently serves as a visiting professor at UC San Diego.

Sherman has written several books, including one that discussed 12 diseases and another that looked at malaria vaccines.

“That started my interest on writing about disease and history,” he said.

The concept for his latest book came about while writing “The Malaria Genome Projects: Promise, Progress, and Prospects” in 2012 for Imperial College Press. At that time, the editor sent him a proposal from pharmacologists interested in writing a book on drugs.

“I was intrigued by the prospect of discussing drugs,” he recalled. “I thought I might be able to write a better book.”

Sherman has since set out to do just that. Already an expert on malaria vaccines, Sherman began reading about other drugs that have changed the world.

“I learned so much,” Sherman said. “I can’t tell you how fascinating it was for me to do the research to write this book. It was such an enlightening experience, and I really wanted to transmit that enlightenment to the readers.”

Sherman hopes the book will not only educate, but entertain, readers.

The book is intended for a general audience, for anybody interested in science and history.

“I hope readers learn something about the drugs that are in their medicine cabinet and how they came to be,” he said. “I also hope readers begin to appreciate the people who develop these drugs.”

“Drugs That Changed the World: How Therapeutic Agents Shaped Our Lives” is available on