I found out today that the common aspirin is celebrating its 110th birthday in 2007. Trouble is I’m not too sure how to go about celebrating. I’d feel better if I had a headache or something — but you know — it’s still early. There’s a good change I may need one or two before my day is over.
One hundred and ten years old! Who would have thought that the common aspirin would turn out to be the most sold analgesic in history (Guinness Book of World Records), and the first publicized medical “cure” available to the modern masses. The journey of aspirin has seen it go all over the world: it was touted as a cure to the Spanish flu which was prevalent after the First World War…aspirin accompanied Apollo astronauts on the moon and has been cited in an estimated three million scientific or medical journals over the years.
According to an article in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica (2 Feb 2007), Felix Hoffman was a simple chemist working for Bayer Pharmaceuticals (now that’s a familiar name) and who’s father just happened to suffer from rheumatism. As any loving son (who was a chemist) might do for their father, Felix set out to develop something that might ease the rheumatic pain that his father dealt with constantly. Hoffman — so the story goes –came across the synthesisof acetylsalicylic acid and then prepared the first sample ofpure acetylsalicylic acid on 10 August 1897. This was marketedin 1899 under the registered trademark of Aspirin.
But wait! This is just where the tale gets interesting! Not everything is so cut and dried! According to www.health.discovery.com, new research has uncovered evidence outside and inside the Bayer archives, proving that it was not Hoffmann but his supervisor, a German Jew named Arthur Eichengrun, who discovered the drug. Seems Arthur Eichengrun’s name mysteriously disappeared from any and all records (well, almost all) around 1934 — right when the Nazi party had come to power.
What makes this tale so remarkable is that Arthur Eichengrun was no small-time chemist. He was an immensely rich man, the owner of many important patents, including his own pharmaceutical country and whose business and personal affairs ironically linked him to some of the highest-ranking Nazis in Germany. He had so much clout in fact that before the start of the second world war his country estate was right next door to Adolph Hitler’s and his Berlin apartment was in the same block as Hermann Goering, Hitler’s designated successor. He was a major-league player — a man with important contacts and considerable power. Only problem apparently was that he wasn’t a full-blooded German.
According to the British Medical Journal (www.bmj.com), once the war started, Eichengrun’s fortune began to run out. He didn’t fit Hitler’s prototype of Aryan perfection. Eichengrun spent 14 months in a concentration camp and was never fully able to refute Hoffman’s claim as the inventor of aspirin. It wasn’t until 1949 that Arthur Eichengrun made an effort to set the record straight by publishing his own claim in European medical journals — but he died the same year.
Fast-forward to 1999 and the Royal Society of Chemists annual conference which was held that year in Edinburgh, Scotland. Dr. Walter Sneader of Strathcyde University presented a motion to officially recognize Arthur Eichengrun as the true founder of aspirin. But nothing came of the effort.
When Bayer celebrated its own anniversary – also in 1999 – the company completely ignored the possibility, claims and proof that Arthur Eichengrun was the true father of aspirin and instead directed every accolade to the late Felix Hoffman.
Strangely — according to www.inventors.about.com and other publications — Felix Hoffman steered clear of the argument and subsequent proof unearthed that supported Arthur Eichengrun as the true founder of aspirin.
So aspirin is 110 years old and it’s time to celebrate — problem is — the guy who really deserves all the credit is just not getting his due.
And THAT is something that really gives me a headache……