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Lab: Synthesis of Aspirin & Oil of Wintergreen - page 1 / 3





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Lab: Synthesis of Aspirin & Oil of Wintergreen

AP Chemistry


In 1897, Felix Hoffman, a chemist working in Elberfeld, Germany, in a laboratory owned by Friedrich Bayer, formulated a pure and stable form of acetylsalicylic acid.  Hoffman was motivated by the suffering of his father, who had severe arthritis, and could not tolerate salicylic acid, a medicine prevalent at that time.  Hoffman and Bayer gave it the name “A-spirin”, which appears to have come from acetylation and spirin, part of the name for Meadow-sweet (Spiraea ulmaria), a plant rich in salicylates.

Bayer patented the name and commenced to market the product in 1899. It was a huge success and sales grew rapidly. In fact, the company set up by Friedrich Bayer & Company is generally reckoned to have been the first pharmaceutical company, and the production of aspirin is generally accepted to have laid the foundation of the modern pharmaceutical industry.

Some notable dates:

400 BCSalicylates recommended by Hippocrates

Pre-industrial Europe Salicylate-rich plants used in folk medicine

1763Rev. Edward Stone describes the medicinal uses of salicylates

1859Salicylic acid is synthesized from carbolic acid

1897Hoffman produces acetylsalicylic acid

1899Friedrich Bayer & Company market Aspirin

Purpose: To synthesize aspirin and to determine the percent yield of the amount that was made.

Salicylic acidAcetic anhydrideAcetylsalicylic acid

Materials and Equipment:

3 g salicylic acid

4 mL acetic anhydride

5 mL methyl alcohol

Concentrated H2SO4 (droppers)

D.I. water

Ice and ice bath

Large watch glass or Petri dish

500-mL and (2) 50-mL beakers

10-mL, 50-mL and 100-mL graduated cylinders

125-mL Erlenmeyer flask

Large test tube

Ring stand and large ring

Filter paper

Buchner funnel and sidearm flask

Hotplate and thermometer

Electronic balance

Scoopula and tweezers

Rubber policeman


The acetic anhydride and sulfuric acid can cause bad burns and thus will be used in the hood.  If they come in contact with your skin, immediately wash the area with copious amounts of water.


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