Bayer patents aspirin 1899
ORIGINAL BAYER BOTTLE
On this day in 1899, the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin registers Aspirin, the brand name for acetylsalicylic acid, on behalf of the German pharmaceutical company Friedrich Bayer & Co.
Now the most common drug in household medicine cabinets, acetylsalicylic acid was originally made from a chemical found in the bark of willow trees. In its primitive form, the active ingredient, salicin, was used for centuries in folk medicine, beginning in ancient Greece when Hippocrates used it to relieve pain and fever. Known to doctors since the mid-19thcentury, it was used sparingly due to its unpleasant taste and tendency to damage the stomach.
In 1897, Bayer employee Felix Hoffman found a way to create a stable form of the drug that was easier and more pleasant to take. (Some evidence shows that Hoffman’s work was really done by a Jewish chemist, Arthur Eichengrun, whose contributions were covered up during the Nazi era.) After obtaining the patent rights, Bayer began distributing aspirin in powder form to physicians to give to their patients one gram at a time. The brand name came from “a” for acetyl, “spir” from the spirea plant (a source of salicin) and the suffix “in,” commonly used for medications. It quickly became the number-one drug worldwide.
Aspirin was made available in tablet form and without a prescription in 1915. Two years later, when Bayer’s patent expired during the First World War, the company lost the trademark rights to aspirin in various countries. After the United States entered the war against Germany in April 1917, the Alien Property Custodian, a government agency that administers foreign property, seized Bayer’s U.S. assets. Two years later, the Bayer company name and trademarks for the United States and Canada were auctioned off and purchased by Sterling Products Company, later Sterling Winthrop, for $5.3 million.
Bayer became part of IG Farben, the conglomerate of German chemical industries that formed the financial heart of the Nazi regime. After World War II, the Allies split apart IG Farben, and Bayer again emerged as an individual company. Its purchase of Miles Laboratories in 1978 gave it a product line including Alka-Seltzer and Flintstones and One-A-Day Vitamins. In 1994, Bayer bought Sterling Winthrop’s over-the-counter business, gaining back rights to the Bayer name and logo and allowing the company once again to profit from American sales of its most famous product.
(More Events on This Day in History)
- 1776 New York demands Sandy Hook lighthouse be dismantled
- 1900 Auto pioneer Gottlieb Daimler dies
- 1857 Dred Scott decision
- 1953 Georgi Malenkov succeeds Stalin
- 1951 The Rosenberg trial begins
- 1987 Sloppy safety procedures lead to ferry sinking
- 1475 Michelangelo born
- 1857 Supreme Court rules in Dred Scott case
- 1983 Kohl elected West German chancellor
- 1947 Rob Reiner born
- 1928 Gabriel Garcia Marquez is born
- 2001 The death spiral of Napster begins
- 1986 Georgia O’Keefe dies
- 1820 Monroe signs the Missouri Compromise
- 1902 Real Madrid founded
- 1965 U.S. is sending Marines to South Vietnam
- 1971 Operation Lam Son 719 continues
World War I
- 1916 New German attacks at Verdun: Battle of the Flanks
World War II
- 1945 Dutch Resistance ambushes SS officer—unwittingly