Robert P. Luciano

Born: October 9, 1933 | New York City, NY, US

Robert Luciano his early life and education in New York, as well as his time at City College of New York, his Army service in the Pentagon, and his law degree at the University of Michigan. After several years of practicing law, Luciano accepted a position at Ciba Corporation, where he moved through the ranks to eventually become President of the Pharmaceuticals Division, and later took a position at Schering-Plough Corporation as Senior Vice President of Administration. Luciano discusses research and development at Schering-Plough, his attempts to increase understanding in the pharmaceutical industry that failure in cutting-edge research programs should be expected and tolerated, and the future of the smaller pharmaceutical companies. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0183
No. of pages: 28
Minutes: 97

Interview Sessions

David C. Brock and Leo B. Slater
25 June 1999
Madison, New Jersey

Abstract of Interview

Robert Luciano begins the interview with a brief description of his early years in New York City, New York. Luciano attended New York public schools, and in sixth grade was selected to join a rapid advancement program for gifted children. After graduating from high school, Luciano attended City College of New York, receiving a bachelor's degree in business in 1954. Luciano then entered the Army, serving in the Pentagon. When he returned from military service, Luciano attended law school at the University of Michigan, earning his J. D. in 1958. Luciano returned to New York, where he practiced law for eight years. He accepted a position in Ciba Corporation's General Counsel Department in 1966. Quickly rising through the ranks at Ciba, he moved into the company's business environment. Luciano was Vice President of Marketing when Ciba and Geigy merged, and by 1975, Luciano was President of Ciba-Geigy's pharmaceuticals division. His skills as a manager helped assuage the difficulties between management and research within the company. After a year with American Cyanamid Company, Luciano joined Schering-Plough Corporation in 1978 as the Senior Vice President of Administration. Luciano sought to increase understanding in the pharmaceutical industry that cutting-edge research programs sometimes produce failure and that tolerance for failure was necessary. In the late 1970s, Schering-Plough entered the world of biotechnology, buying 13 percent of Biogen. Soon after, Biogen scientist Charles Weissmann first cloned interferon. Luciano became CEO of Schering-Plough in 1982, the same year that Schering-Plough bought DNAX, another biotechnology company. Luciano concludes the interview with thoughts on research and development at Schering-Plough, his views on government regulation, and a discussion of the future of the smaller pharmaceutical companies. 


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1954 City College of New York BBA Business
1958 University of Michigan JD

Professional Experience

Royall Koegel & Rogers

1958 to 1966
Senior Tax Associate

Ciba-Geigy Corporation

1966 to 1968
Attorney, CIBA Corporation
1968 to 1970
Assistant Secretar, CIBA Corporation
1970 to 1971
Assistant General Counsel and Director of Public Affairs, CIBA Pharmaceuticals
1971 to 1973
Vice President, Planning and Administration
1973 to 1975
Vice President, Marketing, CIBA Pharmaceuticals
1975 to 1977
President, Pharmaceuticals Division

American Cyanamid Company

1977 to 1978
President, Lederle Laboratories Division

Schering-Plough Corporation

1978 to 1979
Senior Vice President, Administration
1979 to 1980
Executive Vice President, Pharmaceuticals
1980 to 1982
President and Chief Operating Officer
1982 to 1984
President and Chief Executive Officer
1984 to 1986
President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board
1986 to 1996
Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board
1996 to 1998
Chairman of the Board of Directors


Year(s) Award

Candlelight Award, Epilepsy Foundation of New Jersey


Gold Award, The Wall Street Transcript


Bronze Award, Financial World's CEO of the Decade Award Program


President's Award, Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York


New Jersey Business Top 10 Most Admired Executives


Distinguished Business Leaders' Award, Monmouth College


Corporate Recognition Award, National Puerto Rican Coalition


Alexander Hamilton Economic Award


Paul L. Troast Award, New Jersey Business and Industry Association


Townsend Harris Medal, Alumni Association of the City College of New York


Science/Technology Medal, Research and Development Council of New Jersey


Distinguished Service Award, American Liver Foundation


Distinguished Citizen Award, Boy Scouts of America


Hall of Fame Award, Tri-County Scholarship Fund


Ireland United States Council for Commerce and Industry's Council Award for Outstanding Achievement


New Jersey Monthly Magazine's New Jersey Business Leader of the Year Award


Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Drew University


Freedom of the Human Spirit Award, International Center for the Disabled


Baruch College Alumni Association Outstanding Achievement Award


Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree, University College Dublin of the National Ireland University


American Paralysis Association Special Award


New Jersey Battered Women's Association, Professional Leadership Citation


Baruch College Distinguished Alumnus Award

Table of Contents


Growing up in New York City. Attending rapid-advancement program. Enrolling at City College of New York. Getting married in senior year of college. Serving in Army at the Pentagon. Attending law school.

Early Career

Practicing law in New York. Accepting position in law department at Ciba Corporation. Expansion in pharmaceutical industry. Movement into business management. Relationship between management and research. Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association. Research productivity. Leaving Ciba-Geigy for American Cyanamid.

Career at Schering-Plough

Leaving American Cyanamid. Joining Schering-Plough. Becoming CEO of Schering-Plough. Management issues. Relationship with Biogen. Charles Weissmann. Interferon. Buying DNAX. Tolerating failures in research and development. Growth of sales of interferon.


Importance of hiring quality people. Research at Schering-Plough. Future of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry. Government regulations. Success of small firms.


About the Interviewer

David C. Brock

David C. Brock is a senior research fellow with the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. As a historian of science and technology, he specializes in the history of semiconductor science, technology, and industry; the history of instrumentation; and oral history. Brock has studied the philosophy, sociology, and history of science at Brown University, the University of Edinburgh, and Princeton University.

In the policy arena Brock recently published Patterning the World: The Rise of Chemically Amplified Photoresists, a white-paper case study for the Center’s Studies in Materials Innovation. With Hyungsub Choi he is preparing an analysis of semiconductor technology roadmapping, having presented preliminary results at the 2009 meeting of the Industry Studies Association.

Leo B. Slater

Leo Slater was the 2001–2002 John C. Haas Fellow and a senior research historian at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, where he also served as Director of Historical Services from 1997 to 2000. A former research chemist at the Schering-Plough Research Institute, he received his doctorate in History from Princeton University in 1997.