Sunday, February 13, 2011

Discovery of Vitamins B by Casimir Funk

Beriberi, was endemic for centuries and finally proved to be deficiency disease. In 1890 Eijkman developed a polyneuritis by feeding polished rice to hens. This was cured by feeding rice polishing by Dr. Casimir Funk in 1911.

Casimir Funk born in 1884, had grown up in a Poland that was then under a Russian government.

His father, a physician, was able to send Casimir at the age of sixteen to continue his studies in Switzerland, first in Geneva then moving to Berne to specialize in organic chemistry and obtain a doctoral degree at the early age of twenty.

He began his career in Warsaw before moved in 1904 to Pasteur Institute in Paris; then in 1906 to Berlin to work on amino acids and again in 1901 to the Lister Institute in London.

In London, he managed to extract from yeast a compound that was very effective against beriberi, which he called vitamin because its amine content,

He made a great advances in 1912 when he hypothesized that certain diseases such as beriberi, scurvy, pellagra and rickets are caused by deficiency of nutrients.

Casimir Funk coined the word “vitamine”. He describe an organic compound ‘thyamin’ as a ‘vital amine’ and it became known as vitamin B.

He believed that all these substance were ‘vital amines’, however, it was soon shown that most of the vitamins are unrelated chemically and that only a few of them are amines.

Later, as each vitamin was isolated in pure form and its chemical structure was determined, it was given a chemical name.
Discovery of Vitamins B by Casimir Funk
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