One summer day in Chipping Norton, England, the town’s vicar, Reverend Edward Stone (1702 to 1768, upper right plaque), strolled pensively through his lush grounds, pausing to pluck a frond from a large willow tree that swayed gently in the breeze (left). He fiddled with the branch, then nibbled on it. Its “extraordinary bitterness” reminded him of cinchona bark, which was known for its antipyretic effect. Believing, a la Paracelsus, that the physical traits of plants hinted at their therapeutic properties, Stone theorized that the willow tree, which flourished amid moisture, could cure malarial fever, which also flared in humidity. He gathered a pound of willow branches, dried them “outside a baker’s oven for over 3 months,” then pulverized them into powder. The next time he fevered, Stone ingested the powder dissolved in liquid. He soon marveled at its power to soothe. After using willow bark to relieve the misery of 50 parishioners, he penned a letter in 1763 to the President of the Royal Society that publicly announced his discovery. The willow tree would later prove to be a source of salicylate, a potent anti-inflammatory. More than 100 years later, chemists at the Bayer Company would acetylate salicylate to make aspirin (1899, right). (Copyright © the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology. www.woodlibrarymuseum.org)

One summer day in Chipping Norton, England, the town’s vicar, Reverend Edward Stone (1702 to 1768, upper right plaque), strolled pensively through his lush grounds, pausing to pluck a frond from a large willow tree that swayed gently in the breeze (left). He fiddled with the branch, then nibbled on it. Its “extraordinary bitterness” reminded him of cinchona bark, which was known for its antipyretic effect. Believing, a la Paracelsus, that the physical traits of plants hinted at their therapeutic properties, Stone theorized that the willow tree, which flourished amid moisture, could cure malarial fever, which also flared in humidity. He gathered a pound of willow branches, dried them “outside a baker’s oven for over 3 months,” then pulverized them into powder. The next time he fevered, Stone ingested the powder dissolved in liquid. He soon marveled at its power to soothe. After using willow bark to relieve the misery of 50 parishioners, he penned a letter in 1763 to the President of the Royal Society that publicly announced his discovery. The willow tree would later prove to be a source of salicylate, a potent anti-inflammatory. More than 100 years later, chemists at the Bayer Company would acetylate salicylate to make aspirin (1899, right). (Copyright © the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology. www.woodlibrarymuseum.org)

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Jane S. Moon, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, California.