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Syntex Syva Alumni Association Collection

Identifier: 2013-032

Scope and Content

The Syntex Syva Alumni Association Collection consists of materials collected by the SSAA, which were created by or pertain to Syntex Corporation. The collection is arranged into the following five series:

  1. Printed Materials
  2. Miscellaneous
  3. Audio-Visual Materials
  4. Oversized
  5. Photographic Materials


  • Creation: 1960-2010
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1964-1996


Language of Materials

Collection materials are mostly in English. A small amount of materials in Spanish, Russian, and Japanese are also in the collection.

Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.

Copyright Information

The Science History Institute holds copyright to the Syntex Syva Alumni Association Collection. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Background Note

The Syntex Syva Alumni Association (SSAA), the creator of this collection, is a mutual benefit organization of former employees of Syntex Corporation and its subsidiary Syva Company. Founded in 1992 and incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1999, the SSAA was established to promote fellowship among former Syntex/Syva employees. Membership is open to former employees of any Syntex/Syva entity. The SSAA publishes a newsletter and organizes social events for its members.

A large majority of the materials in this collection were created by or pertain to Syntex Corporation, a defunct pharmaceuticals manufacturer. Syntex’s origins date back to 1933, when Hungarian chemist Emeric Somlo and German chemist Frederic Lehmann established Laboratorios Hormona, a small Mexican pharmaceuticals firm that specialized in hormones extracted from animals. Somlo and Lehmann were joined in 1943 by Russell Marker, an American chemist who discovered a method of producing synthetic progesterone from the cabeza de negro, a Mexican wild yam. On January 21, 1944, the three chemists founded Syntex, S.A., which was initially based in Mexico City, Mexico.

Syntex quickly earned a world-wide reputation for innovation. Russell Marker left Syntex in 1945, but the firm compensated for this loss by recruiting a team of talented young researchers, including chemists George Rosenkranz (1945) and Carl Djerassi (1949). During the late 1940s and 1950s, Syntex developed processes for synthesizing a number of steroid hormones, including, but not limited to, progesterone and the oral contraceptive ingredient norethindrone. In 1951, a team of Syntex researchers was credited with being the first to synthesize cortisone. Syntex also experienced significant growth during the 1940s and 1950s. The company entered the American market in 1947 by establishing Chemical Specialties, Incorporated, a subsidiary based in New York City. In 1957, the firm incorporated in Panama as a publicly owned firm and re-named itself Syntex Corporation.

The 1960s and 1970s were a period of rapid growth and expansion for Syntex Corporation. In 1964, the firm moved its headquarters to a new campus at the Stanford Industrial Park in Palo Alto, California. Syntex continued to be an innovator in the development and production of pharmaceuticals, introducing the oral contraceptive Norinyl (1964) and the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug Naprosyn (1975). Between 1965 and 1977, Syntex engaged in a program of expansion which involved the acquisition of a number of other firms, including Arapahoe Chemicals, Incorporated (1965). In 1966, Syntex entered into a joint venture with Varian Associates by co-founding Synvar Associates, which was later renamed Syva Company and subsequently became a wholly owned Syntex subsidiary in 1978. During this time period, Syntex also diversified its product line, which eventually included, but was not limited to, veterinary drugs, scientific instruments, infant nutrition products, and beauty care products.

Syntex Corporation encountered a more difficult business climate during 1980s and early 1990s. The firm continued to develop innovative new drugs, including Femstat vaginal yeast infection cream (1986) and the hypertension and angina drug Cardene (1989). But a number of forces, including globalization, rising research and development costs, and declining drug prices made it more difficult for Syntex to compete in the global marketplace. In addition to these problems, many of the new businesses Syntex acquired through its expansion and diversification program did not perform as hoped. This state of affairs led the firm to downsize by selling off a number of its underperforming businesses during the 1980s and 1990s, including its Dental Division, and Beauty Care Division. But these measures were not enough to ensure Syntex's long term survival as an independent company.

In 1994, Syntex Corporation was acquired by F. Hoffman-La Roche & Company, a Swiss health care concern. Under its new ownership, Syntex was renamed Roche Bioscience in 1995.


Syntex Syva Alumni Association Collection, Chemical Heritage Foundation Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


33.6 Linear Feet (14 Record Boxes, 1 Videotape Box, 6 Oversized Boxes, and 8 Oversized Folders.)


Printed materials, photographic materials, business records, and audio-visual materials collected by the Syntex Syva Alumni Association, a mutual organization of former employees of Syntex Corporation and its subsidiary Syva Company. A large majority of the materials in this collection were created by or pertain to Syntex Corporation, a defunct pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Acquisition Information

The Syntex Syva Alumni Collection was donated to the Science History Institute (formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation) by the Syntex Syva Alumni Association in August 2013.

Related Materials

There is one other known Syntex collection preserved at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Separated Materials

Artifacts separated from the Syntex Syva Alumni Association have been transferred to the Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum.

Processing Information

The Syntex Syva Alumni Association Collection was processed by Kenton G. Jaehnig in February 2016.

Syntex Syva Alumni Association Collection
Finding aid created and encoded by Kenton G. Jaehnig.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Science History Institute Archives Repository

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia PA 19106 United States
215.873.5265 (Fax)