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Jan-04-2010 16:34printcomments

PETN and Other Similar Explosives: They are also Heart Medicines

In his life Dr. Leveque has served as a WWII Combat Infantryman, Physician, Pharmacologist and Forensic Toxicologist.

Explosive sign

(MOLALLA, Ore.) - The above title may confuse most readers but they are facts. I’m certain that most readers know that the first explosive known – pre atom bomb – was gun powder, invented in China, which was a combination of Carbon, Sulfur and Sodium Nitrate. Charcoal and Sulfur provided the propellant while the Nitrate provided the Oxygen for rapid oxidation which equals explosive burning.

Nitroglycerine was discovered about 1860 containing all parts in one molecule and you readers must humor me and go along with this story. Nitroglycerine (TNG) is also a heart medicine for angina or heart attacks. How come is very interesting.

It is rather easily made if one is a chemist but the first chemist who did (1860) was very surprised when he dropped a flask of it and it exploded. WOW! It was used during that time for blasting rock tunnels etc. In 1866 in San Francisco a crate of it exploded. It killed 15 people and destroyed a whole block.

In 1867, Nobel tamed it by mixing it with a form of dirt. In 1880 the military started using it. Women worked in the factories and when they were exposed to the fumes their blood pressure dropped into their sox. It caused headaches rivaled by migraines.

Doctors treating these women figured it could be used for treating angina and high blood pressure and a new type of drug was found. Nitroglycerine only lasts for a few seconds. The chemists went to work to prolong the action. Glycerol is a 3 carbon structure. Lets try a 4 carbon structure – Erythritol. Yep it works also but not well. How about a 5 carbon compound, yep that was better.

The name is difficult for even most chemists Penta Erythrityl Tetra Nitrate – P E T N. This turned out to be not only good medicine but a super powerful explosive, one of the most powerful explosives known. It is usually called SEMTEX.

There are other similar organic nitrates both used for medicine and as explosives. TNT or Trinitrotoluene is possibly the best known.

Now you know what P E T N is aren’t you glad you read this?


Dr. Phillip Leveque has degrees in chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology and minors in physiology and biochemistry. He was a Professor of Pharmacology, employed by the University of London for 2 years, during which time he trained the first doctors in Tanzania. After training doctors, he became an Osteopathic Physician, as well as a Forensic Toxicologist.

Before any of that, Phil Leveque was a Combat Infantryman in the U.S. Army in WWII. He suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 60 years after the war, and specialized in treating Veterans with PTSD during his years as a doctor in Molalla, Oregon. Do you have a question, comment or story to share with Dr. Leveque?
Email him:
More information on the history of Dr. Leveque can be found in his book, General Patton's Dogface Soldier of WWII about his own experiences "from a foxhole". Order the book by mail by following this link: DOGFACE SOLDIER OF WWII If you are a World War II history buff, you don't want to miss it.

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Dr. Leveque January 12, 2010 2:02 pm (Pacific time)

To Guy, January 5 2010: I am hoping you can email the chemical structure of RDX. Not a small nit. Thanks, Dr. Phil

guy January 5, 2010 3:14 pm (Pacific time)

Semtex is PETN+RDX and a plasticizer. A small nit but I thought I would pick it. cheers.

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