Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift

, Volume 166, Issue 15–16, pp 487–499 | Cite as

Daniel Bovet, Nobelist: muscle relaxants in anaesthesia

The role played by two neglected protagonists
main topic

Summary

In 1957, Professor Daniel Bovet received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his studies on various compounds including the muscle relaxants gallamine and succinylcholine that became very useful in anaesthesia. Textbooks credit Professor Bovet for the discovery of these drugs. However, although he indeed did discover their pharmacological character, the actual syntheses were made by Ernest Fourneau and Reid Hunt, respectively; sadly, these two scientists have largely been ignored. In this paper, a brief biography of Bovet is presented along with some of his more notable accomplishments. Particular emphasis has been placed on gallamine and succinylcholine along with their history. In an attempt to undo the “injustice” dealt to both Fourneau and Hunt, brief accounts of their history, story and character are provided.

Keywords

History of medicine 20th century Skeletal muscle relaxants Gallamine Succinylcholine 

Daniel Bovet, Nobelpreisträger: Muskelrelaxanzien in der Anästhesie

Die Rolle zweier vernachlässigter Protagonisten

Zusammenfassung

Professor Daniel Bovet erhielt 1957 den Nobelpreis für Physiologie oder Medizin für seine Studien zu verschiedenen Wirkstoffmischungen einschließlich der Muskelentspannungsmittel Gallamin und Succinylcholin, welche in der Anästhesie äußerst hilfreich sind. Fachbücher ehren Professor Bovet für die Entdeckung dieser Arzneimittel. Allerdings muss bemerkt werden, dass trotz der Tatsache, dass Professor Bovet ihren pharmakologischen Charakter entdeckt hat, die eigentlichen Zusammensetzungen von Ernest Fourneau bzw. Reid Hunt entwickelt wurden. Diese beiden Wissenschaftler wurden bisher leider größtenteils ignoriert. In diesem Dokument wird eine kurze Biographie Bovets zusammen mit seinen wichtigsten Errungenschaften aufgezeichnet. Besondere Schwerpunkte bilden Gallamin und Succinylcholin und ihre Geschichte. In einem Versuch, die „Ungerechtigkeit“, die sowohl Fourneau als auch Hunt angetan wurde, aufzuheben, wird ihnen ein kurzer Abriss ihrer Geschichte und ihres Charakters gewidmet.

Schlüsselwörter

Medizingeschichte 20. Jahrhundert Skeletale Muskelrelaxanzien Gallamin Succinylcholin 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I am most grateful to the following: Professor Daniel Pierre Bovet for inviting me to his apartment in Rome and giving details of his father; Professor Marcel Bickel, Department of Medical History, University of Bern, for guidance during our many meetings in Zurich; Philippe Galanopoulos, Curator, BIU Santé, Paris, for the days spent with me in the literature search. I wish to thank the professors of anaesthesia: Richard SJ Clarke, Belfast, Gottfried Benad, Rostock and Klaus Olkkola, Helsinki, for reading the manuscript. The paper is in memory of those who taught me at the Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University.

Conflict of interest

D.A. Cozanitis declares that he has no competing interests.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anaesthesiology, Intensive Care and Pain MedicineUniversity of Helsinki and Helsinki University HospitalHelsinkiFinland

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