History and Legacy

In the 1960s, very little was understood about the essential mechanisms and functions of what were thought to be the “minor senses” — taste and smell. As a junior professor in the veterinary school at Cornell, Dr. Morley Kare became increasingly interested in this field as he investigated food choice in a variety of species. With encouragement from the government (e.g., the National Science Foundation and the Veterans Affairs Administration) and from several corporate leaders, Dr. Kare envisioned a multi-disciplinary scientific institute dedicated to the study of these senses that are so central to human health and well being.

The Beginning

In 1967, The Ambrose Monell Foundation made an initial pledge of $1 million to create the Monell Chemical Senses Center, with Dr. Kare as director. After consulting with several universities, Dr. Kare, the directors of the Monell Foundation, and administrators at the University of Pennsylvania agreed that Penn would be the ideal location for such a research institute.

Dr. Morley Kare
Dr. Morley Kare

When the Center opened in 1968, its organization was unusual for the times; it began as a joint venture involving academic, government, and industry scientists, when such collaborations were rare.

The Center was first housed in the old Lippincott Publications bindery building owned by Penn at 25th and Locust Streets. In 1971, Monell moved into its current home at 3500 Market Street, initially occupying just two of the building’s six floors.

Early in Monell’s history, Dr. Kare said, “Monell itself is a scientific experiment.” The results of this experiment have surpassed hopes and expectations. From a fledgling organization, Monell has grown to be a major force in scientific research, addressing issues such as human flavor and fragrance perception, nutrition and diet, obesity and metabolic disease, population regulation, homeland security, environmental chemical exposure, and pollution effects.

Monell’s growth was rapid, and in 1978 the Monell Center separated from Penn to become an independent nonprofit research institute. The two institutions continue to maintain a close relationship.