A nice front page tribute in the Washington Post yesterday for Leo Sternbach, the inventor of Valium, who died at the ripe old age of 97. He was hailed as an inventor of something of a cultural icon. A graduate of the University of Krakow, he went to work for Hoffman-LaRoche in Switzerland and came to the US in 1941, when the company’s Jewish doctors fled Europe at the start of World War II. Among his 240 patents, reports the Post, were for the sleeping pill Dalmane and for the seizure drug Klonopin.
All the cultural chit-chat aside, the references to the “mother’s little helper” and its fans (Liz Taylor and Rodney Dangerfield are mentioned) what impressed us most about this article was first of all his work ethic and his humility. He was named one of the 25 most influential Americans of the 20th century by US News and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005.
Yet as the Post article by Patricia Sullivan mentions, “he didn’t care that his discoveries didn’t make him a millionaire” in spite of the fact that his company made a handsome profit on the products he invented. “What’s important”, he is quoted as saying, “Is that you love the work you do.”
It is this spirit that keeps American manufacturers inventing and innovating and staying at the forefront as the best manufacturers in the world. We salute Leo Sternbach, his many inventions and his great career.
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