(German pronunciation "BYE-er", in US usually pronounced "BAY-er")
Bayer AG was founded in Germany in 1863 by Friedrich Bayer and his partner, Johann Friedrich Weskott.
Bayer's first major product was acetylsalicylic acid, a modification of salicylic acid or salicin, a folk remedy found in the bark of the willow. By 1899, Bayer's trademark Aspirin was registered worldwide for Bayer's brand of acetylsalicylic acid, but through the widespread use to describe all brands of the compound, and Bayer's failure to protect its trademark, the word "aspirin" lost its trademark status in the United States. It is now widely used there for all brands of the drug. However in some other countries, such as Canada, Germany, and Switzerland it is still a registered trademark.
In 1904, Bayer introduced the Bayer cross as its corporate logo, consisting of the horizontal word "BAYER" crossed with the vertical word "BAYER", both words sharing the "Y".
As part of the reparations after World War I, Bayer had its assets, including rights to its name and trademarks, confiscated in the United States, Canada, and several other countries. In the United States and Canada, Bayer's assets and trademarks were acquired by Sterling Drugs, a predecessor of Sterling Winthrop.
Bayer became part of IG Farben, a conglomerate of German chemical industries which formed the financial core of the Nazi regime. IG Farben was the main supplier of Zyklon B, a chemical used in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. When the Allies split IG Farben after World War II for involvement in several Nazi war crimes, Bayer reappeared as an individual business.
In 1978, Bayer purchased Miles Laboratories and its subsidiaries Miles Canada and Cutter Laboratories (along with a product line including Alka-Seltzer, Flintstones Vitamins and One-A-Day Vitamins, and Cutter insect repellent). In 1994, Bayer AG purchased Sterling Winthrop's over the counter drug business and merged it with Miles Laboratories, thereby reacquiring the U.S. trademark rights to "Bayer" and the Bayer cross.
Bayer has discovered, among others:
* Aspirin — a pain reliever, arguably the most successful drug ever
* Heroin (diacetylmorphine) — an addictive drug, originally sold as a cough treatment, and arguably the most successful illegal drug ever. Heroin was a Bayer trademark, until Bayer let it lapse.
* Mustard gas — a blister-causing chemical weapon
* Tabun — a nerve agent
* Ciprofloxacin — an antibiotic used to treat anthrax
* Levitra — a treatment for Erectile Dysfunction
* Polyurethane — a very versatile polymer for a wide variety of applications
* Polycarbonate — the material of the CD, Lego etc. (Makrolon)