Leo Sternbach is an inventor that truly made a difference in the world. He invented the drug benzodiazepines, which is better known as Valium. That drug literally changed the world as it was introduced in 1960 as the drug Librium and then in 1963 as the very popular mellowing agent Valium. It was produced by the global pharmaceutical and healthcare company Roche at their New Jersey facility of which Leo Sternbach was a lead scientist. It was at that facility that Leo Sternbach invented the drug. To put into perspective just how popular the drug became, Valium was the most prescribed drug in the world from 1969 through 1982.


Leo Sternbach’s road to this invention has tremendous twists and turns. Leo was born in 1907 in Opatija, Kingdom of Hungary in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He moved to Poland in 1926 and received his master's degree in pharmacy in 1929 and his doctoral degree in organic chemistry in 1931 from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. He was eventually hired by Hoffman-LaRoche and moved to work at the facility in Nutley, New Jersey. Through his work, Sternbach received 271 patents, made many inroads into other gateway drugs and catapulted Roche to be a pharmaceutical mega giant throughout the world. To give you how big Roche became, in 2022 Roche has over 100,000 employees and assets totaling over $88 billion dollars.

Leo Sternbach was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame after his death in 2005, he was 97. He was also inducted into the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame. He was a 60-year resident of Upper Montclair, New Jersey. From 1943 through 2003. Thank you, Leo Sternbach, for calming down the world. Where would be without Valium?

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The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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