Aspirin tablets, 2000.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Aspirin was first synthesised from willow bark by the German chemist Felix Hoffman (1868-1946) and introduced to the medical market in 1899 as a relief against pain. Aspirin reduces fever and relieves pain caused by inflammation (as in arthritis or a sore throat). It works by reducing swelling and stopping the pain mesage travelling to the brain. Other synthetic drugs similar to aspirin, such as ibuprofen, have the same effect but with fewer side effects. Aspirin also can be useful in preventing heart attacks and strokes.