Back to Inductee Search

Donalee L. Tabern

Pentothal / Anesthesia

U.S. Patent No. 2,153,729
Inducted in 1986
Born Jan. 25, 1900 - Died Dec. 31, 1974

Donalee L. Tabern and Ernest Volwiler discovered the anesthetic Pentothal, one of the most important agents in modern medicine. Born in Bowling Green, Ohio, Tabern obtained three degrees from the University of Michigan between 1921 and 1924, including his Ph.D. in chemistry. He joined Abbott Laboratories in 1926 where he worked with Volwiler. His early work centered on sleep-producing drugs, examining the side effects and different uses for pre-operative sleep or anesthesia. This resulted in two of the company's classic products, Nembutal and Pentothal.

Pentothal was hailed because of its flexibility and effectiveness as a general anesthetic. Oral surgeons especially welcomed it and it became known as a "truth serum" for psychotherapeutic uses. Tabern was responsible for Abbott's pioneering work in radio pharmaceuticals.

Other areas in which he was involved were vasopressors, curare-like compounds, antimalarials, diuretics, antiseptics, and X-ray diagnostic agents. In 1946, he headed a special research department to develop the use of radioactive materials in biology and medicine. In 1948 Abbott became the first pharmaceutical company to supply radio pharmaceuticals to medical and research institutions.

Related Inductees