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Vol. 57, No. 2, 2010
Issue release date: November 2010
Ann Nutr Metab 2010;57:85–88

Casimir Funk: His Discovery of the Vitamins and Their Deficiency Disorders

Piro A. · Tagarelli G. · Lagonia P. · Tagarelli A. · Quattrone A.
aInstitute of Neurological Science-CNR, Mangone, and bInstitute of Neurology, Magna Graecia University, Catanzaro, Italy

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The history of the discovery of vitamins is the history of their deficiency disorders. Their discoverer was Casimir Funk, who is considered the ‘father of vitamin therapy’. In his experimental research, Funk studied the interrelationships in the human body of those elements that Eijkman had demonstrated in animals, particularly in birds. In his experimental research, Funk identified the dietetic factors whose lack caused the ‘deficiency disorders’, as he called human beri-beri, scurvy, rickets and pellagra. In 1911, he designated these factors ‘vitamins’ (‘vita’ = life, and ‘amine’ = a nitrogenous substance essential for life); this name was accepted by the scientific community in 1912.

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  1. Harrow B: Casimir Funk. Pioneer in Vitamins and Hormones. New York, Dodd, Mead and Company, 1955.
  2. Funk C: On the chemical nature of the substance which cures polyneuritis in birds induced by a diet of polished rice. J Physiol 1911;43:395–400.
  3. Funk C: The etiology of the deficiency diseases. Beri-beri, polyneuritis in birds, epidemic dropsy, scurvy, experimental scurvy in animals, infantile scurvy, ship beri-beri, pellagra; in Funk C (ed): The Vitamines. Baltimore, Williams and Wilkins, 1922, pp 341–368.
  4. Funk C: Studies on pellagra. The influence of the milling of maize on the chemical composition and the nutritive value of maize-meal. J Physiol 1913;47:389–392.

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