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February 20th marks the passing of Friedrich Sertürner. Sertürner was a German pharmacist who was the first to isolate the active ingredient from opium poppies. The small crystals he extracted would be later called morphine after Morpheus, the Greek god of sleep because of the way it caused drowsiness.

Sertürner tested his discovery on mice and dogs and ultimately humans but never discovered its addictive properties. Morphine was marketed as an analgesic and treatment for alcohol and opium addiction. It would later be found to be a very addictive substance and overuse of the drug became a serious problem.

Find out what else occurred on this day in science history.


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