Rudiments of pharmacology were first taught in 1883 in the newly-founded medical school, whose degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Doctor of Medicine were established by Royal Charter in 1858. The discipline was described as Materia Medica, and its first lecturer was Thomas Storie Dixson, from 1883 to 1917. The establishment of a Chair of Pharmacology was then recommended, and, in 1918 the first Professor of Pharmacology, Henry George Chapman, was appointed. Chapman had taught in the Department of Physiology but was not a specialist in pharmacology; he resigned to become Professor of Physiology in 1920. The Chair of Pharmacology then lapsed for twenty-eight years. The previous position of Lecturer in Materia Medica was re-established, and filled in 1921 by John MacPherson, a Sydney graduate who was a leading Australian authority on Materia Medica and therapeutics. After MacPherson retired in 1934, Pharmacology was taught by members of the Physiology Department, resulting in some dissatisfaction among the medical students.
In December 1938 a Senate sub-committee reported that the students' complaints were justified. In the resulting re-shuffle of teaching in the medical school, pharmacology became linked with therapeutics. In 1946, the Senate requested the senior medical professors to report on future developments in physiology and pharmacology. This they did within one month and part of the recommendation was that the Chair of Pharmacology be re-established and that an offer of appointment be made to Adrien Albert (who was later to become Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Australian National University). The offer of the Chair was declined, so the position was advertised, attracting thirteen applications, but was then re-advertised at new salary rates in the hope of increasing the number of applicants. Meanwhile, Dr Hales Wilson, another distinguished medical graduate of the University, was appointed to lecture in Pharmacology. Hales Wilson gave one lecture per week for one term in each of two years to medical students, largely ex-service personnel, who were described as 'very likeable and keen to learn'.