Casimir Funk

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Cazimierz Funk, also known as Kasimir Funk, was a Polish biochemist. He proposed the idea of vitamins in 1912, which he initially called "vital amines" or "vitamines."

Achievements[change | change source]

After reading an article by a Dutchman named Christiaan Eijkman, which said that people who ate brown rice were less likely to get beri-beri compared to those who only ate fully milled rice, a scientist named Funk tried to find the specific substance responsible for this. He was successful and named it "vitamine" because it contained an amine group. It was later called vitamin B3 (niacin), even though he initially thought it would be vitamin B1 (thiamine) and described it as the "anti-beri-beri-factor.

In 1912, he suggested the existence of at least four vitamins: one to prevent beriberi, one for scurvy, one for pellagra, and one for rickets. He later published a book called "The Vitamines" in 1912 and received a research fellowship.

Funk also suggested that other diseases like rickets, pellagra, coeliac disease, and scurvy could also be treated with vitamins. He was one of the early researchers to investigate pellagra, attributing it to changes in the corn milling process, although his findings were largely ignored.

The "e" in "vitamine" was removed when it was realized that vitamins don't have to be nitrogen-containing amines.

He suggested there are other essential nutrients, which we now call vitamins B1, B2, C, and D.

In 1936, he figured out the structure of thiamine, but he wasn't the first to isolate it.

Funk also studied hormones, diabetes, peptic ulcers, and cancer biochemistry.

After coming back to the United States, he became the president of the Funk Foundation for Medical Research in 1940. In his later years, he focused on understanding the causes of cancers.

Funk Award[change | change source]

The Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America (PIASA) gives an award called the Casimir Funk Natural Sciences Award each year to outstanding Polish-American scientists. Previous winners of this award have included notable individuals like Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann, Aleksander Wolszczan, Hilary Koprowski, Peter T. Wolczanski, Wacław Szybalski, Zbyszek Darzynkiewicz, and Benoit Mandelbrot.