Donalee L. Tabern
Born Jan 27 1900 - Died Dec 31 1974
Thiobarbituric Acid Derivatives
Pentothal / Anesthesia
Patent Number(s) 2,153,729
Ernest H. Volwiler and Donalee L. Tabern discovered the general anesthetic Pentothal, one of the most important agents in modern medicine. Volwiler and Tabern discovered Pentothal in 1936 when they were seeking a substance which could be injected directly into the blood stream to produce unconsciousness. For three years the two men screened over 200 compounds, eventually arriving at a sulfur-bearing analogue of Nembutal. Induction was smooth, pleasant, free of muscle twitching, and notably lacking in delirium or frightening psychic effects. It could be used for minor procedures requiring anesthesia or for more prolonged procedures, being administered before ether.
As a result of his efforts, Abbott in 1948 became the first pharmaceutical company to supply radio pharmaceuticals to medical and research institutions. The uses of Pentothal are legend. Few agents in medicine have played such an outstanding role in improving the well-being of generations of patients.
Born in Bowling Green, Ohio, Tabern went on to obtain three degrees from the University of Michigan between 1921 and 1924, including his Ph.D. in chemistry. He joined Abbott Laboratories in 1926 after two years as an instructor at Cornell University.
Tabern, who held a number of patents, worked with Volwiler at Abbott and was associated with many of the company's scientific advances. His early work centered on sleep-producing drugs, resulting in two of the company's classic products, Nembutal and Pentothal.
In 1944 Tabern proposed research on isotopes for clinical uses. He was responsible for Abbott's pioneering work in radio pharmaceuticals. Other fields in which he was involved were vasopressors, curare-like compounds, antimalarials, diuretics, antiseptics, and X-ray diagnostic agents. During World War II he was engaged in work on problems associated with military medicine.
In 1946 he headed a special research department to develop the use of radioactive materials in biology and medicine.