Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Scherer, Robert Pauli

Robert Pauli Scherer invented the rotary die encapsulation process, which transformed the soft-gelatin encapsulation field, and ultimately the production of medicinal gelatin capsules. Born in 1906 in Detroit, Michigan, Scherer was raised and educated in the city, eventually graduating from Detroit’s public school system. Scherer then attended the University of Michigan where he graduated with a degree in chemical engineering.

After earning his degree, Scherer began working with pharmaceuticals. It was during this time that he realized there was a better way to process vitamins and drugs into soft, convenient capsules. In 1930 at the age of 24, Scherer invented the rotary die encapsulation machine in a workshop located in the basement of his parents’ Detroit home. Scherer's invention transformed the production of soft gelatin capsules used in the pharmaceutical industry into a commercial process that helped to raise worldwide health and nutritional standards.

With his invention revolutionizing the pharmaceutical realm, Scherer was able to open the R.P. Scherer Corporation in 1933, which still exists today. The firm was the world's largest manufacturer of soft gelatin capsules by 1984, with eighteen plants located across twelve different countries. An ingenious inventor, Scherer received fifty-two patents during his lifetime. In 1955, his original rotary die encapsulation machine was placed in the Smithsonian Institution. The city of Detroit remembers and honors Scherer and his all-important invention through the maintenance of his birthplace, at 67 Kirby Street, which received a Michigan Historical Marker in 1984.

Edited by Julia Teran

 


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The Scherer House at 67 Kirby, 1980 - 2008.033.092

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