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Dr Leo Henryk Sternbach (May 7, 1908 – September 28, 2005) was a Polish-Jewish chemist who is credited with inventing the benzodiazepine, a class of tranquilizers.
He was born in Opatija, then in Austria-Hungary and now part of Croatia. He received his chemistry degree from the University of Krakow. He worked for Hoffmann-La Roche in Basel, Switzerland, which helped him to flee to the United States in 1941 to escape the Nazis. His work on drugs was done while working for Roche in Nutley, New Jersey.
Sternbach is credited with the invention of chlordiazepoxide (Librium), diazepam (Valium), flurazepam (Dalmane), nitrazepam (Mogadon), clonazepam (Klonopin), and trimethaphan (Arfonad). Librium, based on the R0 6-690 compound discovered by Sternbach in 1956, was approved for use in 1960. In 1963 its improved version, Valium, was released and became astonishingly popular: between 1969 and 1982 it was the most prescribed drug in America, with over 2.3 billion sold in peak year of 1978. The Rolling Stones paid tribute to Valium (the "little yellow pill") in their "Mother's Little Helper".
Sternbach held 241 patents, and his discoveries helped to turn La Roche into a pharmaceutical industry giant. He didn't become wealthy due to his discoveries but he was happy: he treated chemistry as a passion and said that "I always did just what I wanted to do". He went into the office until he was 95. Sternbach was a longtime resident of Upper Montclair, New Jersey, from 1943 to 2003. He moved down south, and died at his new home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
A book "Good chemistry: The life and legacy of valium inventor Leo Sternbach" was published by McGraw-Hill in 2004.
He is present in the New Jersey Inventor's Hall of Fame; and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Leo_Sternbach". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|