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To the Editor:
I thoroughly enjoyed the superb historical perspective article on aspirin by Miner and Hoffhines.1 They described in detail the discovery of aspirin's antithrombotic effects and mentioned Felix Hoffman's role in creating acetylsalicylic acid and naming it aspirin. To make their article more complete, I wish to describe briefly the origin of the word “aspirin.”
Aspirin was originally a trademark name that required a capital “A,” given by the German company Bayer to its preparation of acetylsalicylic acid.2 Salicylic acid was first extracted from the plant Spiraea ulmaria, and the principal component of this extract was known by the German term spiroylige Säure, which was later shortened to Spirsäure.2 An “A,” to designate acetyl, was added to “spir,” and this was followed by the suffix “-in”.2 Thus, the name aspirin was born.
Aspirin, which was originally a proper noun, later became a common noun, so the initial letter was no longer capitalized. The word has now joined the general language, in the company of many other well-known proper nouns that are no longer proper.3,4 I published a partial list of these in 1997.3
Over the years, I have discovered a few more and have accumulated a small list of scientific proper names that I would like to share with your readers. The list is as follows:
I am sure your readers can think of many more such instances, and I would welcome their contributions to my list. I have placed a question mark after the explanation for “stent,” because not every interventional cardiologist agrees to this interpretation.5
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