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Fascinating facts about Felix Hoffmann
inventor of Aspirin in 1897.

Felix Hoffmann
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 named Charles Gergardt's experiments and "rediscovered" acetylsalicylic acid--or aspirin, as we now know it.
THE STORY
RELATED INFO
BOOKS
WEB SITES
DID YOU KNOW?
Inventor: Felix Hoffmann
Felix Hoffmann photo courtesy Aspirin Foundation
Criteria: First to patent. First practical.
Birth: January 21 1868 in Ludwigsburg, Germany
Death: February 8 1946 in Switzerland
Nationality: German
Invention: aspirin on August 10, 1897
Image courtesy Bayer Company
Function: noun / as-pi-rin / originally a trademark
Definition: Since 1899, acetylsalicylic acid has attained a leading position world-wide in the prescription-free therapy of painful, inflammatory and feverish states.
Patent: 644,077 (US) issued February 27, 1900
Milestones:
BC
400 Hippocrates prescribes the bark and leaves of the willow tree to relieve pain and fever
AD
1832 French chemist named Charles Gergardt experiments with salicin and creates salicylic acid
1897 Felix Hoffmann, studied Gerhardt's experiments and "rediscovered" acetylsalicylic acid
1899 Bayer distributes aspirin powder to physicians to give to their patients
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 tablet form.
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.
Felix Hoffmann, Felix Hoffman, aspirin, asprin, acetylsalicylic acid, John Vane, Dr. Lawrence Craven, Hippocrates, Arthur Eichengru, inventor biography, invention, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating facts.
The Story:
Felix Hoffmann was born in Ludwigsburg, Germany, in 1868, the son of an industrialist. After finishing school, he initially aimed for a career as a pharmacist. His work in the field of pharmacy fascinated him so much that he decided to broaden his knowledge in this field by studying chemistry. In 1891 he graduated magna cum laude from the University of Munich. Two years later he earned his doctorate, also magna cum laude, after completing his theses entitled "On certain derivatives of dihydroanthracene."

On the recommendation of eventual Nobel Prize laureate Professor Adolf von Baeyer, under whom Hoffmannn had studied, he joined "Farbenfabriken vorm. Friedr. Bayer & Co." in 1894 to work as a chemist in the chemical laboratory.

It was mostly by chance that he made a discovery of historic significance on August 10, 1897. By acetylating salicylic acid with acetic acid, he succeeded in creating acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) in a chemically pure and stable form. The pharmacologist responsible for verifying these results was skeptical at first, yet the extent of this pharmaceutical wonder became clear once several large-scale studies to investigate the substance's efficacy and tolerability had been completed: Hoffmann had discovered a pain-relieving, fever-lowering and anti-inflammatory substance. The company then worked flat out to develop a cost-effective production process that would allow the promising active ingredient to be supplied as a pharmaceutical product. In 1899 it was launched for the first time under the trade name Aspirin, initially as a powder supplied in glass bottles. Aspirin has made the Bayer name world-famous like no other drug product. Shortly after the synthesis of acetylsalicylic acid, Hoffmann was made head of the pharmaceutical marketing department. Two years later he was granted full power of attorney.

In the United States, Bayer was able to obtain a patent, giving the company the monopoly on manufacturing the drug from 1900 to 1917. When Bayer's American plants were sold in 1919 as part of the reparations exacted from Germany after World War I, Sterling Products of Wheeling, West Virginia, was willing to invest the unheard of sum of $3 million for Bayer's drug properties in the United States. But Sterling was unable to protect the trademark status of "aspirin." Aspirin became a staple of the over-the-counter market in the United States and elsewhere.

By the time he retired in 1928, his discovery was already a worldwide success. Yet 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.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Invention of Aspirin  from The Great Idea Finder
Healthcare History   from The Great Idea Finder 

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
The 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.

Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs
Mistakes That Worked
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 (July 1994)
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, 2005)
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, 2005)
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
Pharmaceutical Achievers: The Human Face of Pharmaceutical Research
by Mary Ellen Bowden / Paperback: 220 pages / Chemical Heritage Foundation (January 1, 2003)
Within a two-week period in August of 1897, Felix Hoffmann synthesized aspirin, one of the most widely beneficial drugs ever, and heroin, one of the most harmful of illegal substances.

ON THE WEB:

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.
(URL: www.bayer.com/about-bayer/history/biographies/felix-Hoffmann/page1219.htm)
Aspirin Adventures
Within a two-week period in August of 1897, Felix Hoffmann synthesized aspirin, one of the most widely beneficial drugs ever, and heroin, one of the most harmful of illegal substances. Felix Hoffmann article by Mary Ellen Bowden.Excerpted from the book Pharmaceutical Achievers.
(URL: www.chemheritage.org/EducationalServices/pharm/asp/fh.htm)

100 Years of Aspirin

Who discovered aspirin?
(URL: www.bayeraspirin.com/questions/hundred_aspirin.htm)
Wonder Drug Aspirin
How does aspirin work? Visit the official site dedicated to the wonder drug aspirin.
(URL: www.wonderdrug.com)
Sir John Vane
Ingenious and perceptive pharmacologist who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine after discovering how aspirin worked
(URL: www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,60-1373136,00.html)
National 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.
.
(URL: www.invent.org/hall_of_fame/184.html)
Bayer Corporation USA
Changing the world with great care. Other innovations from Bayer Corporation.
(URL: www.bayerus.com/about/index.html)
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Official Web site of the Department of Health and Human Services
(URL: www.nih.gov)
Aspirin Foundation
A source of information for consumers, health professionals and journalists on all scientific and general aspects of aspirin usage
(URL: www.aspirin-foundation.com/)
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 Centre.
(URL: www.bpac.org.nz/default.asp?action=article&ID=202)

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 1896
  • Americans consume over 50 million aspirin tablets every day, 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).
Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised July, 2005.
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