Fascinating facts about the
Aspirin by Felix Hoffmann in 1897.
AT A GLANCE:
Felix Hoffmann, a German
chemist, produced a stable form of acetylsalicylic acid, more commonly
known as aspirin, in 1897. Hoffmann, was searching for something to relieve his
father's arthritis. He studied French chemist Charles Gergardt's
experiments and "rediscovered" acetylsalicylic acid--or aspirin, as we
now know it.
HOW IT WORKS
DID YOU KNOW?
as-pi-rin / originally a trademark
acetylsalicylic acid has attained a leading position world-wide in
the prescription-free therapy of painful, feverish and inflammatory
||644,077 (US) issued February 27, 1900
||First to patent. First
||January 21 1868 in
||February 8 1946 in
400 Hippocrates prescribes the bark and leaves of the willow tree to
relieve pain and fever
1832 French chemist named Charles Gergardt experiments with salicin and
creates salicylic acid
1897 Felix Hoffmann, studied Gerhardt's experiments and "rediscovered"
1899 Bayer distributes aspirin powder to physicians to give to their
1900 Bayer introduces aspirin in water-soluble tablets - the first
medication to be sold in this form.
1915 Aspirin becomes available without a prescription. Manufactured in
1948 Dr. Lawrence Craven, a California notices that aspirin reduced the
risk of a heart attack.
1971 John Vane conceived that aspirin might work by inhibiting the
generation of prostaglandins.
CAPs: Aspirin, Felix Hoffmann, John Vane, Dr.
Lawrence Craven, Hippocrates, Arthur Eichengru, Charles Gergardt,
SIPs: asprin, acetylsalicylic acid, invention, history,
inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating
The effects of aspirin-like substances have been known since the ancient
Romans recorded the use of the willow bark as a fever fighter. The leaves
and bark of the willow tree contain a substance called salicin, a naturally
occurring compound similar to acetylsalicylic acid, the chemical name for
Even as far back as 400 B.C. Hippocrates recommended a tea made
from yellow leaves. It wasn't until the 1800's that scientists discovered
what was in the willow tree that relieved pain and reduced fever. The
substance was named salicylic acid. But when people suffering from pain took
the salicylic acid, it caused sever stomach and mouth irritation.
In 1832, a
thirty-seven-year-old French chemist named Charles Gergardt mixed another
chemical with the acid and produced good results, but the procedure was
difficult and took a lot of time. Gerhardt decided the new compound wasn't
practial, so he set aside.
Sixty-five-years later a German chemist, Felix Hoffmann, was searching for
something to relieve his father's arthritis. He studied Gerhardt's
experiments and "rediscovered" acetylsalicylic acid--or aspirin, as we now
Dr. Lawrence Craven, a California general
practitioner, in 1948, notices that the 400 men he prescribed aspirin to
hadn't suffered any heart attacks. He regularly recommends to all patients
and colleagues that "an aspirin a day" could dramatically reduce the risk of
In 1971 John Vane began his work on aspirin.
Over a weekend he conceived the notion that the mysterious drug might work
by inhibiting the generation of prostaglandins. He turned again to his
bioassay system for the answer and within a few days he had convinced
himself and his colleagues that this indeed was the missing mechanism of
Inventor Felix Hoffmann Biography from The Great Idea Finder
Healthcare History from The Great Idea Finder
ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Kid Who Invented the Popsicle: And Other Surprising Stories About Inventions
by Don L. Wulffson / Paperback - 128 pages (1999) / Puffin
Brief factual stories about how various familiar things were invented, many by accident,
from animal crackers to the zipper.
by Charlotte Foltz Jones, John O'Brien (Illustrator) / Paperback - 48
pages (1994) / Doubleday
Recounting the fascinating stories behind the accidental inventions of forty
familiar objects and products.
How Does Aspirin
Find a Headache?
by David Feldman, Kassie Schwan (Illustrator) / Paperback: 288 pages / Harper Perennial
David Feldman once again sparks our curiosity with a book of Imponderables -- the seventh
book in the wildly successful series that has sold one million copies.
Aspirin : The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug
by Diarmuid Jeffreys / Paperback: 352 pages / Bloomsbury USA (September 5,
Rich in dramatic twists and discoveries, the story of aspirin begins in
ancient Egypt, and embraces wars, epidemics, espionage, an Oxfordshire
vicar, a forgotten Jewish scientist, the Industrial Revolution, a common
tree, the Treaty of Versailles, the world's most powerful pharmaceutical
companies, Auschwitz, a mercurial advertising genius, and much more.
Aspirin: The Miracle Drug
by Eric Metcalf / Paperback: 212 pages / Avery Publishing Group (April 7,
Open any medicine cabinet coast-to-coast and you're nearly guaranteed to
find a bottle of aspirin crowded among the lotions and other pills. Aspirin
has been used to cure headaches, arthritis, fevers, and inflammation since
Hippocrates first began grinding willow bark
ON THE SCREEN:
Mavericks, Miracles and Medicine
DVD / 2 Volume Set / 200 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $40.00
The arsenals of today's hospitals are filled with complex and
technologically sophisticated tests and treatments that, only a
generation ago, would have been the exclusive province of science
ON THE WEB:
100 Years of
Who discovered aspirin?
Wonder Drug Aspirin
How does aspirin work? Visit the official site dedicated to the wonder
Sir John Vane
Ingenious and perceptive pharmacologist who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine
after discovering how aspirin worked
Inventors Hall of Fame
The National Inventors Hall of Fame™ honors
the women and men responsible for the great technological advances that make
human, social and economic progress possible..
Felix Hoffmann Biography
The "inventor" of Aspirin remained unknown to the international public. He
lived in Switzerland out of the public eye until his death in 1946. Felix
Hoffmann was never married and had no children.
Bayer Corporation USA
Changing the world with great care. Other innovations from Bayer Corporation.
National Institutes of Health
Official Web site of the Department of Health and Human
A source of information for consumers, health professionals and
journalists on all scientific and general aspects of aspirin usage
A Twist to the Story.
Up until recently official histories made no mention of Arthur Eichengrun’s
role in the development of aspirin. Article by Best Practice Advocacy
WORDS OF WISDOM:
"Take two aspirin and call me in the
morning." - Anonymous
HOW IT WORKS:
Aspirin reduces the production of hormone-like substances
called prostaglandins, which are produced in tissues throughout the body. Prostaglandins
have many functions. They are part of the chemical messenger systems involved in feeling
pain, fever, the redness and swelling that can accompany injuries, and even in contracting
certain muscles, for example, the uterus. Since aspirin lowers the amount of
prostaglandins, it can help alleviate conditions like pain, fever and the discomfort of
menstrual cramps. Aspirin also reduces production of substances involved in the early
stages of our body's blood clotting mechanism. This is why doctors may prescribe aspirin,
as part of a regimen including diet and exercise, for appropriate individuals with
DID YOU KNOW?:
- Twice as many people choose aspirin
over the personal computer as an invention they couldn't live without
in a national survey on inventions conducted by MIT in 1996
- Americans consume over 50 million aspirin tablets every
. that's over 15 billion tablets a year.
- The bayer aspirin was originally marketed in loose powder
form. In 1900, the company introduced aspirin in tablet form.
- In 1900, Felix Hoffman was issued a
U.S. patent for Aspirin (No. 644,077)
- The name "aspirin" is composed of a-
(from the acetyl group) -spir- (from the spiraea flower) and -in (a
common ending for drugs at the time).
- Today over 70 million pounds of aspirin are produced annually all over the
it the world's most widely used drug.
trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Sources in BOLD Type.
page revised March 3, 2006.
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