Joseph Bienaime Caventou (1795-1877), French chemist, who, along with Pierre Pelletier, isolated and synthesized quinine and other pharmacologically important alkaloids. This work was important in the early development of chemotherapy.
In 1820, Caventou and Pelletier studied various types of Cinchona bark, a bark known by the Peruvian natives to contain medicinal properties useful in the treatment of fevers, especially malaria. After much experimentation and analysis, they succeeded in isolating an alkaloid they called “quinine.” They reported that this was the active ingredient in Cinchona responsible for the alleviation of fevers. They also reported many of the physical and chemical properties of quinine, and went on to synthesize the compound and prepare it on a large industrial basis. The manufacture and use of quinine spread rapidly thıoughout the world, and the drug was widely used to treat malaria until the mid-20th century.
Before their work on Cinchona, Caventou and Pelletier studied ipecac roots and isolated emetine, a drug used to treat dysentery. They also isolated two poisonous alkaloids—strychnine and brucine—from the nux vomica plant.