The story of the discovery of heparin and warfarin

Br J Haematol. 2008 Jun;141(6):757-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.2008.07119.x. Epub 2008 Mar 18.


Heparin and coumarins have been the mainstay of anticoagulant therapy throughout our working lives. As we stand on the threshold of a new era of anticoagulants it is timely to look back upon their discovery and development. Both have fascinating stories to tell. Jay McLean claimed to have discovered heparin whilst a medical student, although this is disputed. The story of warfarin leads us from a mysterious haemorrhagic disease of cattle to the development of a rat poison which became one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in history. Many people were involved in both stories and we owe them all a debt of gratitude.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / history*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / history
  • Hematology / history*
  • Heparin / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Warfarin / history*


  • Anticoagulants
  • Warfarin
  • Heparin

Personal name as subject

  • William Henry Howell
  • Charles Best
  • Karl Link