updated 5/1/2005 9:15:50 PM ET 2005-05-02T01:15:50

Ed Schantz, a researcher who was a pioneer in purifying the toxin used in Botox injections, has died. He was 96.

Schantz died Thursday, said Joe Donovan, a spokesman for Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster, one of Schantz’s four daughters.

In 1946, Schantz and colleagues purified botulinum toxin type A — the poison that causes an often fatal form of muscle paralysis called botulism — in a crystalline form, allowing researchers to study it in greater detail, according to the Botox Web site of Allergan Inc., which acquired rights to distribute the toxin in 1988.

In the 1960s, Schantz found that in small doses the botulinum toxin could stop the muscle spasms that cause certain illnesses. One of the first medical uses was to treat crossed eyes, which are caused by an overactive eye muscle.

Today, injections of the botulinum toxin, in the commercial form of Botox, are used to smooth out wrinkles.

Schantz was nearly alone in his ability to purify the botulinum toxin. Discover magazine, in a 1992 article, compared him to a fine winemaker who had perfected his craft over decades.

Schantz began his career as an Army officer at Fort Detrick, Md., during World War II, where he was the first to purify and grow “red tide” shellfish toxin, another deadly toxin. While the military was interested in the uses of toxins as biological weaponry, Schantz was an early advocate of using them for medicinal purposes.

Schantz later worked at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Food Research Institute, retiring in 1979.

He is survived by five of his six children. His wife, Katharine, died in 1998.

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