50 years since the discovery of bromocriptine

G. Michael Besser, Ronald F. Pfeiffer, Michael O. Thorner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Ergotism is the long-term ergot poisoning by ingestion of rye or other grains infected with the fungus Claviceps purpurea and more recently by excessive intake of ergot drugs. It has either neuropsychiatric or vascular manifestations. In the Middle Ages, the gangrenous poisoning was known as St. Anthony’s fire, after the order of the Monks of St. Anthony who were particularly skilled at treating the condition. In 1917, Prof. Arthur Stoll returned home to Switzerland from Germany, to lead the development of a new pharmaceutical department at Sandoz Chemical Company. Stoll, using the special methods of extraction learned from his work with his mentor Willstetter, started his industrial research work with ergot. He succeeded in isolating, from the ergot of rye, ergotamine as an active principle of an old popular remedy for excessive post-partum bleeding. The success of this discovery occurred in 1918 and was translated into a pharmaceutical product in 1921 under the trade name Gynergen. In subsequent work, Stoll and his team were leaders in identifying the structure of the many other alkaloids and amines produced by Claviceps purpurea. This was the cultural background and scientific foundation on which bromocriptine was discovered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R69-R75
JournalEuropean journal of endocrinology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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