1899: Felix Hoffmann, a young pharmacist working for the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, patents a new pain reliever. The trademark name is aspirin.
Hoffmann, who was said to be seeking an effective pain reliever for his father’s rheumatism, successfully synthesized acetylsalicylic acid in August 1897. It would later be marketed as aspirin ‚Äî “a” for “acetyl” and “spirin” for Spirea, the genus name of the source plant for salicylic acid, the pain-relieving agent.
That August, incidentally, was an especially fertile period for Hoffmann: The month also saw him synthesize heroin, which he accomplished accidentally while attempting to acetylate morphine to produce codeine. Obviously, that discovery didn’t pan out like aspirin.
It turns out that aspirin was a huge money-spinner for pharmaceutical company Bayer owing to persuasive marketing and powerful patent lawyers.
Link to Wired on the birth of aspirin.