It’s true: Bayer didn’t invent Heroin (generic name: diamorphine), but Bayer chemist Felix Hoffman perfected its manufacture. The head of Bayer’s research department reputedly coined the name Heroin, based on the German heroisch (“heroic, strong”). Hoffman wasn’t trying to make an opiate: he was actually trying to make synthetic cocaine out of morphine. Yeah, really.
Heroin was sold over the counter in the late 1800s, and they marketed it as a “non-addictive morphine substitute” — but of course it was very addictive. In 1914, the U.S. started to require a prescription for opiates. Heroin used to be Bayer’s registered trademark, but it lost rights to the name in the west under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, following Germany’s defeat in World War I. The bottle shown in the photo is c1920.
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