Casimir Funk: How a Polish biochemist discovered vitamins

Casimir Funk was born on February 23, 1884.

Casimir Funk: How a Polish biochemist discovered vitamins

Casimir Funk was born on February 23, 1884. This Friday he would have celebrated his 140th birthday. Funk grew up in Warsaw, but studied in Berlin and Switzerland. Funk received his doctorate at the University of Bern.

Thanks to his fundamental work in the field of vitamin deficiency diseases, such as research into beriberi, a disease caused by thiamine deficiency, in 1912, he is credited with introducing the term "vitamin" (short for "vital amine"). Funk hypothesized that vitamin deficiency is the cause of certain diseases and referred to such vitamin deficiency diseases as avitaminoses. He made a mistake. What Funk called the beriberi vitamin was neither an amine nor anti-beriberi.

However, in his search for an active ingredient against beriberi, he managed to isolate nicotinic acid and vitamin B3. Although this was useless against beriberi, it was effective in the treatment of pellagra, a common vitamin deficiency disorder. Funk later researched the importance of vitamin B for carbohydrate metabolism and examined the influence of vitamins on the growth of animals.

After the outbreak of World War II, Casimir Funk moved from Poland to the United States. He had already lived there after the outbreak of the First World War in 1915 and 1923. Funk died on January 19, 1967 as a result of cancer in Albany near New York.

Sources: Chemie.de, Spektrum.de

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