Felix Hoffmann

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Felix Hoffmann

Felix Hoffmann (January 21, 1868 – February 8, 1946) was a German chemist, credited for the first synthesized medically useful forms of heroin and aspirin, while he was employed as a chemist at BayerAG.


He was born on January 21, 1868 in Ludwigsburg, the son of industrialist. In 1889 he started studying chemistry at the Ludwig- Maximilians- University of Munich to study pharmacy and ended it in 1890 with the pharmaceutical state exam. 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 thesis entitled "On certain derivatives of dihydroanthracene.".[1] In 1894, he joined the Bayer as a research chemist.

Hoffman sought to find an alternate way to treat arthritis without utilising sodium salicylate, the standard anti-arthritis drug of the time. The large doses, 6 - 8 grams, of sodium salicylate that was used to treat arthritis commonly irritated the stomach lining and caused patients considerable pain and irritation. Since acidity made salicylates hard on the stomach, he began looking for a less acidic formation which led him to synthesize acetylsalicylic acid, a compound that shared the therapeutic properties of other salicylates but not the strong acidity that he believed caused stomach irritations.

This was achieved by putting the compound through a series of chemical reactions that covered up one of the acidic portions, leaving the carboxylic acid group, with an ACETYL group converting it into acetylsalicylic acid. Thus by acetylating salicylic acid with acetic acid, he succeeded in creating acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) in a chemically pure and stable form.

On August 10, 1897, Hoffmann synthesized acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) for the first time in a stable form usable for medical applications. 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 once several large-scale studies to investigate the substance's efficacy and tolerability had been completed, it was found Hoffmann had discovered a pain-relieving, fever-lowering and anti-inflammatory substance. The company then worked to develop a cost-effective production process that would facilitate the promising active ingredient to be supplied as a pharmaceutical product. In 1899 it was marketed for the first time under the trade name Aspirin, initially as a powder supplied in glass bottles.

He was also the first to create a stable version of Diacetylmorphine or Heroin, but he was not its original inventor.

Following the synthesis of aspirin, Hoffmann moved to the pharmaceutical marketing department, where he stayed until his retirement in 1928. He was granted full power of attorney, over Aspirin[2]

Hoffman was never married and died without issue on February 8, 1946 in Switzerland.


In 2002, he was inducted into the US National Inventors Hall of Fame.

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