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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 14 Issue 3 (2009) pp 130-144

Leo H. Sternbach (1908–2005) and His Serendipitous Remedies for the Age of Anxiety

George B. Kauffman* and G. Wayne Craig

Department of Chemistry, California State University, Fresno, Fresno, CA 93740-8034,, Lead Finding Research, Oberwilerstrasse 76, CH-4102 Binningen, Switzerland,

Published online: 6 June 2009

Abstract. Leo H. Sternbach (1908–2005), studied dyestuff chemistry in Krakow, Poland but later moved in 1938 to Switzerland for postdoctoral studies on abietic acid at the ETH under Nobel chemistry laureate Leopold Ružička (1887–1976). In 1940 he joined the Swiss pharmaceutical firm, Hoffmann–La Roche, in Basel, Switzerland. In 1941, fearing a Nazi invasion, the firm transferred all its Jewish employees, including Sternbach, to their new laboratories in Nutley, New Jersey. Sternbach’s prolific research in mood-altering drugs, especially Librium and Valium, made an indelible mark on society and how people throughout the world coped with stress and anxiety.

Key Words: Chemistry and History; Chemists in Switzerland; Organic Chemistry; Pharmaceutical Chemistry; Medicinal Chemistry; Tranquilizers; Serendipity; Biography

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

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Issue date: June 6, 2009

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