George Rieveschl: Benadryl

BY Christian Sager / POSTED August 14, 2013
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Benadryl antihistamine medication.

Behold… Benadryl! But where did it come from?

Meet George Rieveschl, born in Lockland, Ohio on January 9, 1916. George originally dreamed of becoming a commercial artist, but was discouraged when his applications to over 200 positions received silence or rejection. Turning to chemistry as an alternative, George put his mind to work and had a doctorate in just seven years. Two years later he was an assistant professor at his alma mater, the University of Cincinnati. It was there that George discovered Benadryl while researching muscle relaxers.

While testing “beta dimethyl-aminoethyl benzhydryl ether hydrochloride,” George realized that it could be used to block receptors in capillaries that are affected by histamines. As an antihistamine, this medicine was renamed Benadryl, and prevents inflammation, itching and other allergic reactions. Benadryl wasn’t the first antihistamine however, as Daniel Bovet discovered them in 1937. But despite Benadryl’s side effect of lethargy, it actually caused less drowsiness than those earlier medicines. George left academic life in 1943 to test Benadryl for the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company. In 1946 they bought the rights and began selling Benadryl as a prescription drug. Today it’s widely available over-the-counter and used to relieve allergic discomfort, motion sickness, rashes and even Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

George received a 5% royalty from Benadryl sales and was making close to $6 million a year by the early 1960s. What did he do with all that wealth? By 1970 he left corporate life and returned to the University of Cincinnati as Vice President of Research and Special Projects. He was also a wine aficionado and loved literature and art, even continuing to paint and make his own abstract pieces. George showed his love for all of these passions by supporting them philanthropically until he died in 2007.

Photo courtesy of Nomadic Lass, used under Creative Commons CC BY-SA license.

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