Don’t Work Hard, Work Smart!

This post started as an idea to write about the story and achievements of Felix Hoffman, and then it took another turn…

download.jpegjs6tDCe-Felix Hoffman, who died on February 8 seventy years ago, was a German pharmacist and chemist. He worked in the famous pharmaceutical company Bayer and is credited for the invention of Aspirin and heroin… and yes Heroin was a cough medication.

1505196ce4d1c59dce16e1310785b1e5Hoffman’s father was suffering from severe arthritis; he was prescribed salicylate sodium for his joint pain, which caused him severe stomachache. Consequently, Hoffman looked into the French chemist Charles Frédéric Gerhardt’s chemical reaction that leads to sodium salicylate; he changed few raw material ending up with a less corrosive salicylate and he acetylated it to come up with a highly stable molecule which is less irritating to the gastrointestinal tract: Acetylsalicylic Acid. Bayer marketed the product under the name of Aspirin.

Many chemists fought for the credit of inventing Aspirin, but Bayer’s official story adopted Hoffman which made him the most famous Aspirin “inventor”.

aff1dd3046e21ef6a768fe9919cfb6c111 days after the “discovery” of Aspirin, Hoffman made another “breakthrough” by discovering a very potent morphine derivative that Bayer marketed it under the brand name of Heroin as a cough suppressant and an aid for opiates withdrawal.
What really happened in these eleven days is that Hoffman took the work of Charles Romley Alder Wright an English chemist and mimicked it ending up with Heroin that was marketed by his pharmaceutical company Bayer. The medication ended-up being withdrawn from the market because of its serious and lethal side effect.

I would say Hoffman was exposed to the right information at the right time while working in the right pharmaceutical company…
that was lucky!

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Hoffman’s story sheds light on a huge problem any inventor can face; Coming up with new ideas is very tricky. The pioneer needs to be careful about where, when and with whom he is sharing his information, because if it falls in hands of someone who has more privileges (i.e. Hoffman working in Bayer), this will cause him to loose all rights easily. Consequently, patents were created.

A patent is an exclusive right given by law to inventors to make use of, and exploit, their inventions for a limited period of time. By granting the inventor a temporary monopoly in exchange for a full description of how to perform the invention, patents play a key role in developing industry around the world. Via Thomson Reuters

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So the inventor needs to use the patent privileges before sharing the invention with anyone he doesn’t trust or thinks might race him to the patent. Unfortunately, another issue has been faced and it’s the funding of the patent.

To maintain the validity of a patent, the owner needs to pay fees to each appropriate patent authority; failure to do so causes the patent rights to lapse.
Via Thomson Reuters

Hence, working hard is not enough to take rights for your work but you need to work smart and have funds and sponsors ready to back you up. Unfortunately, that’s the key to a successful invention with clear and clean credits, which makes coming up with something new the easy part of the invention.

Finally, always remember not all the credited information you see online are true. On an unrelated note, here’s what president Barack Obama said after checking our blog:

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He Said Hello Way Before Adele !

Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.

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Those are the first words said over the phone by Alexander Graham Bell back when the first functional telephone was invented in 1876.

Since then communication between humans has changed forever, look around you… literally everything is transforming sound waves to electrical waves or vice versa. Furthermore, this invention is making it possible for me to write this post and post it where anyone in the world can access it!

Bell does not have a sad ending to his story like Lavoisier’s decapitation or Marie Curie’s death by radiation… On the contrary, he lived a wealthy happy life where he did what he loved, and finally died of excessive sugar (Diabetes).

B: By Mistake

Bell tried to read Hermann von Helmholtz’s (German physicist) work about how different resonators can mimic vowels sounds, but he didn’t know how to read German, so he just looked at the schematics. Hence, he came to the conclusion that we can transform sound waves into electrical ones (which wasn’t really Helmholtz’s conclusion).

Believing that he can do it, he worked days and nights and finally invented the telephone… he was “positively” mislead!

He once said that if he were able to read German when he read Helmholtz’s work, he wouldn’t be able to create the first telephone.

E: Educator

Alexander_Graham_Bell_and_family.jpgEducation and communication were the interest of his family starting from his grandfather. Consequently, he was a professor of elocution.

Bell’s mom became deaf when he was around 12 years of age, so as a result, he decided to take his family’s work to the next level… so he worked all his life on creating new communication techniques and visible ways to communicate and to teach deaf people how to talk, and he ended up marrying a deaf woman himself.

L: Like a Fox

Alexander_Graham_Bell.jpgBell, along with his assistant, took the patent for the telephone in 1875 before even making sure that it was functional. They took the patent from the UK first, because they only accept an application if it’s not applied anywhere else in the world; when they took the UK patent, they applied to the USA one and few days later they have two patents in two different continents. Consequently, the lawsuits were filed against him everywhere in the world, because believe it or not he wasn’t the only one working on this project.

The most famous lawsuit was from Elisha Gray (an American scientists) who claims that Bell stole his ideas to come up with his invention.

So these facts make Bell the most famous inventor of the telephone and not the only one … but for sure he was the first one to create the first functional one.

L: Later in His Life

Bell ended up inventing and inspiring the invention of at least those two “technologies”:

  • Photophone: transmission of sound waves via beams, hence wireless phone (it was a successful invention).
  • Metal detector: his model failed but inspired others to the invention of our modern metal detector.

Finally, you can hear Bell’s voice over the phone fascinated by his own creation in the video bellow

 

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Cocktail’s Ingredients:

 

Nothing is lost

Nothing is lost. This is a term that comes to mind on two occasions, listening to Damien Rice’s Grey Room or thinking about Lavoisier’s universality.

The elegance of “Rien ne se perd, rien ne se crée, tout se transforme.” (“Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed.”) is amazing.

According to Nature:

The Law of Conservation of Mass dates from Antoine Lavoisier’s 1789 discovery that mass is neither created nor destroyed in chemical reactions. In other words, the mass of any one element at the beginning of a reaction will equal the mass of that element at the end of the reaction. If we account for all reactants and products in a chemical reaction, the total mass will be the same at any point in time in any closed system. Lavoisier’s finding laid the foundation for modern chemistry and revolutionised science.

Cheers to him..

L: Lawyer

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He was trained as a lawyer and bought into a company which gathered tax for the French government.  Lavoisier married Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze in 1771, acting at the request of her father, who was a senior member of the tax company Lavoisier had bought into.

The Count d’Amerval, who was about 40, had made a proposal of marriage to Marie-Anne and her father had been threatened with dismissal from the tax company if she did not say yes. Lavoisier stepped in and married her to provide Marie-Anne and her father with a suitable excuse for her not marrying The Count.

A: Académie des Sciences

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He made it to the prestigious academy (celebrating 350 years in 2016) due to his earlier passion and work on geology in 1768.

V: Vapors

Priestley and his candles frame grab

 

The era was that of pneumatic chemists, those interested in the composition of gases. Lavoisier’s interest was peaked when his colleague asked him to verify a tip from a spy in London, stating that some Vapor was able to cure scurvy in 1772. This lead him on a path investigating rust, sulfur and eventually coining Oxygen’s properties, along with the theory of acids.

O: Oxygen

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Or greek for acid former. He actually named the infamous organic atoms O, C and H. This was in direct defiance to the “Phlogiston theory”, especially to Joseph Priestley, the first person to isolate Oxygen. This theory’s major flaw was it was purely qualitative and assumed that rusting material would release “Phlogiston” and should become lighter. This was the beginning of the formulation of the Law of Conservation of Matter..

I: Inflammable Air

A term used by Cavendish to describe an air liberated by dissolving metals in acids. This is actually hydrogen, water former in greek, that Lavoisier was quick to pick up on as well – and publish it as his won, without credit. He was the first to call it Hydrogen, to publish the paper but not too professionally 🙂

S: Stoichiometry

Pioneer of stoichiometry. Lavoisier’s law of mass conservation eventually led to our chemical nomenclature, where each material is denoted by its constituent elements and its ratios (ex. CH4 for Methane), and its use and balance in chemical equations. His love for quantitative measurement also showed in his participation to establish the metric system for weights and measure.

I: Instant

“It took them only an instant to cut off that head, and a hundred years may not produce another like it.”

[Mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange].

E: Elementary and Eiffel

Considered to be the first modern chemical textbook, The Elementary Treatise on Chemistry was published by Lavoisier in 1789. It explained the different between a compound and an element, and proposed a list of the latter (including oxygen, sulfur…)

On another note, to save the Eiffel tower from destruction, Gustave Eiffel stated, “It will be for everyone an observatory and a laboratory the likes of which has never before been available to science. It is the reason why, from day one, all of our scientists have encouraged me with their utmost sympathies.” Indeed, it has been so for a while. Moreover, it features the names of 72 eminent french scientists including Lavoisier himself.

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R: Reign of Terror

As was alluded to earlier, Lavoisier died by the guillotine. This happened at the age of 50 on May 8, 1794 in Paris. He was part of the Parisian elite, had a company to collect taxes, giving the people enough reasons to condemn him during the revolution aftermath.

At the end of 1795, in a U-turn, the French government found Lavoisier innocent of all charges. By then, of course, it was too late: he was just another innocent victim of the revolution’s Reign of Terror.

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When You Love Science Till Death 

In movies and comic books getting exposed to gamma radiations and nuclear waste can give you superpowers … well in real life it can give you a Nobel Prize or even two!

When we talk about devotion to science, it’s mandatory to talk about Marie Curie. She literally changed the course of science history, and she created a new future that affected chemistry, physics, medicine and much more.

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She was born as Maria Sklodowska to a very poor family in a very bad era, where it was difficult for a woman to have a decent college education. Consequently, she made a pact with her sister Bronya to work and put her through medical school. After her graduation, Bronya returned the favor and helped Marie to get her first college degree.

You can read all about her childhood, personal and doctoral history by clicking on this (link).

We though we would honor this incredible scientist by compiling her achievement and greatest work, so that her name doesn’t get mistaken for Mariah Carey anymore.

C: Conqueror

She broke into the world of science and conquered lots of firsts that marked the history of science discoveries;

  • She was the first woman to get global recognition for anything to do with science
  • She was the first person to define radioactivity
  • She was the first woman to win a Nobel prize
  • She was the first person to win two Nobel prizes in two different fields and she’s still the only one to have them both in the science fields.
  • She was the first woman professor in the Sorbonne University

U: Uranium

Henrie Bequerel discovered a weird electrical conduction through the air, that came in contact with uranium salts, and he called the phenomenon “Uranium Rays”. Therefore, Marie Curie was curious about the reaction that is causing these rays, so she worked along with her husband on this project.

She came to the conclusion that these radiations are not coming from a chemical reaction rather than the atom itself. The latter concept was new and eccentric.

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She and her husband went further in their studies, they tested a lot more chemical and end up discovering two different new elements to add to the periodic table and they were much more radioactive then Uranium. These elements are Polonium (named after Poland Curie’s homeland) and Radium (named after the Latin word ray).

R: Radiation

Marie Curie and her husband had always in their pockets small vials of Radium, it’s said that it was a good luck charm for them. In addition, They worked with radioactive elements 24/7. Although Pierre curie died in a horse carriage accident but if he lived more he would have had the same fate as his wife. until these days, their books are still radioactive and dangerous.

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Marie died of lymphoma from excessive exposure of radiation.

On the other hand, the interesting fact is that she discovered the dangers of radiation way before it was too late for her, and yet she continued working on this project… now that’s what you call devotion!

Therefore, she ended up as the first person to introduce the concept of radiation therapy to tumor treatments.

 

I: Intrepid

Marie Curie is basically a fearless science goddess, she went against all the stereotypes of women noMarie-curie-xray-truckat having a college education by having a PhD, she went through all the radiation exposure just to come up with history changing results, and last but not least she was on the front line during the first World War using a transporter X-Ray radiation machine to help the wounded soldier with the knowledge she gathered from her lab.

E: Ease

The Marie Curie Foundation is a charitable organizations in the UK that provides support to all terminally ill patients, and they have fundraisings all over the world… keeping Marie Curie’s name not only trending in science but also in charity and ease of pain.

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Cocktail Ingredients:

 

Alexander Fleming

The first Fine Wine is a scientist cherished by us both. Alexander Fleming has immensely contributed to science with his discovery of penicillin, the first human antibiotic. The story goes that he typically left his lab untidy, went out for a family vacation, and came back to stunning results: growing mould had surprisingly killed most of his bacterial cultures.

You can check out the story in depth in the links we will provide below, but we thought we would pay homage in a different way, by providing little known facts about him.

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Read the funny story of how the original mould was given by Fleming to his neighbours as a thank you for scaring off burglars. It also featured a note explaining it was not gorgonzola and recently auctioned for more than 4000 pounds. 

F: Funny

“That’s funny” was his famous remark after noticing that staphylococci surrounding the mould were dead, but further ones were still alive in the petri dish.

L: Lysozyme

In 1922, even before penicillin, he characterised lysozymes, while testing bodily fluids such as mucus from his nose and others on bacterial cultures. Today, these agents are famous to biologists, eastern medicine and as wine preserving agents.

E: Expected

As taken from his Nobel speech:

It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them, and the same thing has occasionally happened in the body. The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.

M: Matador

A statue of him exists at the Plaza de Toros in Valencia Spain since antibiotics is so vital to matadors, whose career involves constant injuries and contact with germs.

I: Infection

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Timely discovery of penicillin after culminating deaths, especially after the WW I. This period greatly affected Fleming who served in the military, and was motivated by the inefficient ways by which wounds were treated, causing more damage than healing.

N: Nobel

Being a nobel laureate in Physiology at 1945 along with Ernst B. Chain and Sir Howard Florey, who both contributed to the drug development.

G: Germ Art

Since watercolours are not enough to brighten most people’s paintings, Fleming resorted to “growing microbes with different natural pigments in the places where he wanted different colors”. How’s that for making a painting feel more ALIVE!

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