Casimir Funk

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Kazimierz Funk (February 23, 1884 – November 20, 1967), commonly anglicized as Casimir Funk, was a Polish biochemist. A son of Polish Jews[1] , he was generally credited with the first formulation of the concept of vitamins in 1912 , which he called vital amines or vitamines.

Contribution to science

After reading an article by the Dutchman Christiaan Eijkman that indicated people eating brown rice were less vulnerable to beri-beri than those who ate only the fully milled product, he tried to isolate the substance responsible and he succeeded around 1912. Because that substance contained an amine group, he called it vitamine. It was later to be known as vitamin B1 (thiamine). He put forward the hypothesis that other diseases, like rickets, pellagra, sprue and scurvy could also be cured by vitamins. The "e" at the end of vitamine was later removed when it was realized that vitamins need not be nitrogen containing amines.

He later postulated the existence of other essential nutrients, which became known as B1, B2, C, and D. In 1936 he determined the molecular structure of thiamin, though he was not the first to isolate it. He was the first to isolate nicotinic acid (also called niacin or vitamin B3).

Funk also conducted research into hormones, diabetes, ulcers, and the biochemistry of cancer.

The Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America (PIASA) annually honors Polish-American scientists with the Casimir Funk Natural Sciences Award. Past winners include Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann, Alexander Wolszczan, Hilary Koprowski, Peter T. Wolczanski, Waclaw Szybalski and Benoît Mandelbrot.

Funk returned to the USA In 1940 he became the president of the Funk Foundation for Medical Research and ended his career in pursuit of orally active spleenic extracts.


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