Christiaan Eijkman, Dutch physician

Christiaan Eijkman, Dutch physician

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Credit: NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEDICINE/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Christiaan Eijkman (1858-1930), Dutch physician and discoverer of the cause of beriberi and thus the role played by vitamins in health. Beriberi is a disease caused by a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B1). Eijkman discovered this link after being sent to Java, Indonesia, to study the disease. He found that it was caused by a diet of polished rice, rice that has had its outer skin removed. Adding the outer skin to food alleviated the symptoms. This was the first time that a dietary component was linked to a disease, and the discovery won Eijkman the 1929 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The work led to Casimir Funk's isolation of thiamine (1912) from rice husks, which he called vitamine (from 'vital amine').

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