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Felix Hoffmann

Born: 21-Jan-1868
Birthplace: Ludwigsburg, Germany
Died: 8-Feb-1946
Location of death: Switzerland
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: Germany
Executive summary: Aspirin and heroin

Felix Hoffman was a chemist who had studied under Adolf von Baeyer and worked at Friedrich Bayer & Co. In 1897, hoping to find relief for his father's painful, debilitating rheumatism, Hoffmann began searching through decades-old research and conducting experiments in the company lab. On 10 August 1897, he discovered a new process for modifying salicylic acid into acetylsalicylic acid. He took the drug home and gave a dose to his father, whose pain vanished almost immediately. It was Hoffmann's boss, Heinrich Dreser, who coined the name Aspirin, and credit is also due to early 19th century scientist Charles Gergardt, who discovered essentially the same chemical compound but failed to recognize its medicinal value.

Hoffmann continued his experiments, and eleven days later he synthesized medicinal diacetylmorphine -- heroin -- which Bayer marketed as a cough suppressant. He was soon promoted to department head, but Hoffmann was paid no royalties, as the German Patent Board determined that his chemical tinkering was not sufficiently novel. Originally a prescription drug sold as a bottled powder, Aspirin in tablet form was approved in America for over-the-counter sales in 1915. The reason why aspirin works was unraveled decades later by Nobel laureate John R. Vane.

    University: BS Chemistry, University of Munich (1891)
    University: PhD Chemistry, University of Munich (1893)

    Bayer AG Chemist (1893-1928)
    National Inventors Hall of Fame 2002


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