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"[D]iacetylmorphine (to give heroin its correct chemical name) was not a new substance as such. It had originally been discovered in 1874 by an English chemist called C. R. Alder Wright. He had been conducting experiments with opium derivatives at St Mary's Hopsital in London in 1874 and had obtained from the base for the white crystalline substance by boiling up morphine in water. Curious to see what its effects might be, he tried it out on his dogs but it is said to have been so disgusted by what it did to them that he threw it away. None the less he had written up the experiment and although it had since been forgotten [Bayer's] Dreser had come across it in one of his periodic trawls through the old scientific literature. Morphine had long been used as a pain killer and more recently in the treatment of respiratory diseases like tuberculosis, which were widespread at the time. Another opium derivative, codeine, was also in common use because of its suppressing effects n coughing fits. But both drugs had the distinct drawback of being highly addictive. Anyone who could come up with a non-addictive derivative would hit the jackpot. Knowing that acetylation (the same process used in producing acetylsalicylic acid) made certain products less tonic, Dresser figured that diacetylmorphine might just prove to be that non-addictive substance. Unusually, because it wasn't his normal role to task scientists in the pharmaceutical section, he had asked Felix Hoffman to try to replicate Wright's process. Two weeks after he had formulated ASA, Hoffman successfully synthesized diacetylmorphine (in the process earning the curious distinction of 'discovering' in the same fortnight one of the most useful substances known to medicine and one of the most deadly).

-pp. 71 - 72, Aspirin: The Story of a Wonder Drug by Diarmuid Jeffreys (2004)

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