The Bayer History

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Bayer AG (German, pronounced [?ba??]) (ISIN: DE0005752000, TYO: 4863) is a German chemical and pharmaceutical company founded in Barmen, Germany in 1863. Today it is headquartered in Leverkusen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is well-known for its original brand of aspirin. Bayer is currently the third largest pharmaceutical company in the world.




Bayer AG was founded in Barmen (today a part of Wuppertal), Germany in 1863 by Friedrich Bayer and his partner, Johann Friedrich Weskott.

Bayer’s first major product was acetylsalicylic acid (originally discovered by French chemist Charles Frederic Gerhardt in 1853), a modification of salicylic acid or salicin, a folk remedy found in the bark of the willow. By 1899, Bayer’s trademark Aspirin was registered worldwide for Bayer’s brand of acetylsalicylic acid, but because of the confiscation of Bayer’s US assets and trademarks during World War I by the United States and the subsequent widespread usage of the word to describe all brands of the compound, “Aspirin” lost its trademark status in the United States and some other countries. It is now widely used in the US for all brands of the drug. However in some other countries, such as Canada, Mexico, Germany, and Switzerland it is still a registered trademark of Bayer.

In 1904, Bayer introduced the Bayer cross as its corporate logo. Because Bayer’s aspirin was sold through pharmacists and doctors only, and the company could not put their own packaging on the drug, the Bayer cross was imprinted on the actual tablets, so that customers would associate Bayer with its aspirin.

As part of the reparations after World War I, Bayer had its assets, including rights to its name and trademarks, confiscated in the United States, Canada, and several other countries. In the United States and Canada, Bayer’s assets and trademarks were acquired by Sterling Drug, a predecessor of Sterling Winthrop.

Bayer became part of IG Farben, a conglomerate of German chemical industries which formed the financial core of the Nazi regime. IG Farben owned 42.5% of the company that manufactured Zyklon B, a chemical used in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. During World War II the company extensively used slave labour in factories attached to German concentration camps, notably the sub-camps of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. When the Allies split IG Farben after World War II for involvement in several Nazi war crimes, Bayer reappeared as an individual business. Bayer executive Fritz ter Meer, sentenced to seven years in prison by the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, was made head of the supervisory board of Bayer in 1956, after his release.

In 1978, Bayer purchased Miles Laboratories and its subsidiaries Miles Canada and Cutter Laboratories (along with a product line including Alka-Seltzer, Flintstones Vitamins and One-A-Day Vitamins, and Cutter insect repellent). In 1994, Bayer AG purchased Sterling Winthrop’s over the counter drug business from SmithKline Beecham and merged it with Miles Laboratories, thereby reacquiring the U.S. trademark rights to “Bayer” and the Bayer cross.

Bayer has discovered, among others:

  • Aspirin — a analgesic and anti-coagulent, arguably the most commercially successful drug ever
  • Heroin (diacetylmorphine) — an addictive drug, originally sold as a cough treatment. Heroin was a Bayer trademark, until World War I
  • Methadone
  • Prontosil as the first sulfonamide
  • Mustard gas — a blister-causing chemical weapon
  • Tabun — a nerve agent
  • Ciprofloxacin — an antibiotic used to treat anthrax and urinary tract infections.
  • Levitra — a treatment for Erectile Dysfunction
  • Polyurethane — a very versatile polymer for a wide variety of applications
  • Polycarbonate — the material of the CD, Lego etc. (Makrolon)
  • Suramin

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  1. One Response to “The Bayer History”

  2. By Jock on Jun 24, 2011 | Reply

    Wham bam thank you, ma’am, my qetusoins are answered!

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