Hippocrates realized that juice from willow tree bark killed pain. Scientists in the 19th century realized it was the salicylic acid in the willow that made the painkiller work, but it was hard on stomachs and had to be buffered. In 1899, Hoffmann rediscovered an old formula from a French chemist, and he spent time on developing and testing aspirin to promote its use.
More than a cure for headaches and minor pain, aspirin has been clinically proven to work wonders for many conditions. People at risk of heart attack are advised to take an aspirin a day, and aspirin is used to prevent and treat stroke. Aspirin is also thought to be a potent drug for cancer, heart disease, Alzheimers, stroke, infertility, herpes, and blindness. Studies have shown that long-term aspirin taking can reduce the risk of death from colon cancer by over 40%. Today, over 70 million pounds of aspirin are produced annually around the world, and Americans consume more than 15 billion tablets per year.
Born in Ludwigsburg to an industrialist father, Hoffman studied Chemistry at the University of Munich. He originally wanted to be a pharmacist, and felt that knowledge of chemistry would help him in his future career. He joined the Bayer pharmaceutical research facility in 1894. Shortly after his invention of aspirin in 1897 he became head of the pharmaceutical marketing department at Bayer where he stayed until his retirement in 1928. Bayer gained full patent rights to monopolize aspirin production in the U.S. from 1900 to 1917, but the company was forced to sell their American plants in 1919 as part of the reparations payments from WWI. Hoffman never gained international recognition or celebrity status for his popular invention. He lived in Switzerland out of the public eye having never married or had children. He died in 1946.