Great Moments in Aspirin's History
400 BC: Hippocrates uses willow bark on patients to reduce fevers and pain. Willow bark is later found to contain salicin, the same active component as aspirin.
1763: The Royal Society of London publishes an article by the Rev. Edward Stone, "Account of the success of the Bark of the Willow in the Cure of Agues," officially reporting what had been folklore for centuries.
1828: The active ingredient in willow bark, salicin, is chemically separated.
1839: French chemists synthesize salicylic acid from salicin, which is later used medically.
1853: French chemist Charles Frederic Gerhardt first creates a crude form of acetylsalicylic acid, but its medical uses are not yet recognized.
1897: German chemist Felix Hoffmann modifies salicylic acid to acetylsalicylic acid to make it less harsh on the stomach. Since he worked for Bayer, the company got the patent.
1899: Acetylsalicylic acid is named Aspirin by Bayer. By November of this year, Aspirin is in wide-spread use.
1917: Bayer's patent on Aspirin runs out, allowing other companies to sell acetylsalicylic acid. Bayer retains the trademarked name, "Aspirin."
1920: Bayer loses its trademark of the name "Aspirin" in court. This reduces "aspirin" to a generic word for any brand of acetylsalicylic acid.
1950: Dr. Lawrence L. Craven of California describes his observations about aspirin's action as a blood-thinner, and begins prescribing daily doses to his patients as a means of preventing heart attacks.
1971: British pharmacologist John R. Vane discovers aspirin's mechanism of action — that it inhibits the production of hormone-like substances in the body called prostaglandins.
1982: Sir John R. Vane is co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discoveries concerning prostaglandins.
1988: Results of the Physicians' Health Study show that aspirin significantly reduced risk of first heart attack.
1990s: Studies show regular use of aspirin may reduce risk of colon cancer.
2005: Research shows that aspirin reduces the risk of stroke in healthy women, although no clear benefit is seen for prevention of heart attack.