Robert Gibson was born in Tacoma, Washington. He served in the US Army during World War II. In 1958 he was the first African American to receive a Pharm.D. from the University of California, San Francisco. He then joined the faculty at UCSF where over the next 50 years he served in many capacities, including Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Associate Dean for Professional Affairs in the School of Pharmacy, and as Director of the Pharmaceutical Technology Laboratory. In 2000 he was elected president of the American Pharmaceutical Association, and in 2006 he received the Remington Honor Medal.