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Veterinary therapeutics, based on the art of Materia Medica, has been practised for countless centuries, but the science of veterinary pharmacology is of very recent origin. This review traces the contribution of Materia Medica to veterinary therapeutics from the Egyptian period through to the Age of Enlightenment. The first tentative steps in the development of the science of veterinary pharmacology were taken in the 18th century, but it was not until the mid 20th century that the science replaced the art of Materia Medica. This review traces the 20th century developments in veterinary pharmacology, with emphasis on the explosion of knowledge in the 35 year period to 2010. The range of factors which have influenced the current status of the discipline are reviewed. Future developments are considered from the perspectives of what might be regarded as desirable and those innovations that might be anticipated. We end with words of encouragement for young colleagues intent upon pursuing a career in veterinary pharmacology