Friedrich Wilhelm Adam Sertürner was born June 19, 1783 in Neuhaus, now part of Paderborn, a North Rhine city in Germany.
He grew up to become a pharmacist and chemist.
The first opium-based elixir has been ascribed to alchemists of Byzantine times, but the specific formula was lost during the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul).
Around 1522, Paracelsus made reference to an opium-based elixir that he called laudanum from the Latin word laudare, meaning “to praise.”
He described it as a potent painkiller, but recommended that it be used sparingly.
By the late eighteenth century, when the East India Company gained a direct interest in the opium trade through India, another opiate recipe called laudanum became very popular among physicians and their patients.
Then in December of 1804, Friedrich Sertürner isolated an alkaloid from the opium poppy plant.
Thus he became the first person to isolate a “soporific principle,” an active ingredient associated with a medicinal plant or herb.
Sertürner called his new discovery “morphium” after the Greek god of dreams, “Morpheus.”
Today, in German and some other Central-European languages, morphium is still the name of the drug. The term “morphine”, used in English and French, was later given by the French physicist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac.
In the years following the discovery, Sertürner investigated the effects of morphine.
Then in 1809, he opened his own pharmacy in Einbeck.
His new drug was first marketed to the general public by Sertürner and Company in 1817 as an analgesic, and also as a treatment for opium and alcohol addiction.
In 1822, Sertürner bought another pharmacy in Hamelin (Rathaus Apotheke).
Commercial production began in Darmstadt, Germany in 1827 by the pharmacy that became the pharmaceutical company Merck, with morphine sales being a large part of their early growth.
Friedrich Wilhelm Adam Sertürner died FEbruary 20, 1841.
Diacetylmorphine (better known as heroin) was synthesized from morphine in 1874 and brought to market by Bayer in 1898.
Now WE know em