Trivia

Hard

The Compound Nicotine Is Named After A?

British Chemist
Greek God
French Ambassador
American Farmer
An 1876 engraving depicting Jean Nicot  de Villemain.
Albin Michel/Wikimedia

Answer: French Ambassador

Nicotine is a very potent parasympathomimetic alkaloid, found in the nightshade family of plants, that acts as a stimulant in the human nervous system. It’s also, as both smokers and non-smokers alike know, a very addictive compound.

While the name of the compound was assigned based on the plant in which it was found (nicotine was first discovered in analysis of the plant Nicotiana tabacum), we can in turn trace the scientific name of the plant back and arrive at the real origin of nicotine’s name.

In 1560, the French ambassador to Portugal, Jean Nicot de Villemain, sent bundles of tobacco and seeds to Paris to be presented to King Henry II. He promoted the use of tobacco as a medicinal drug and through both his influence and the social power of those he sold on the idea of regular tobacco consumption (such as the Father Superior of Malta and the queen mother Catherine de’ Medici), the use of tobacco spread quickly throughout French society.

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