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Casimir Funk

(Redirected from Kazimierz Funk)

Kazimierz Funk (February 23, 1884 - January 19, 1967), commonly anglicized as Casimir Funk, was a Polish biochemist, generally credited with the first formulation of the concept of Vitamins in 1912, which he called vital amines or vitamines.


Born in 1884 in Warsaw, the son of a prominent dermatologist, he studied in Berlin and Switzerland, where he gained his doctorate in organic chemistry at the university of Bern in 1904. He worked at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, then in Berlin, and later at the Lister Institute in London. In 1915 he moved to America where he was naturalised in 1920. He returned to his native Poland, but found it too politically unstable and in 1927 moved on to Paris where he started his own research institution, the Casa Biochemica .

After the outbreak of World War II he finally moved permanently to America in 1939. In 1940 he started the Funk Foundation for Medical Research in America.

He died in New York in 1967 aged 83.

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 (vitamin). 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 realised 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.

Last updated: 11-08-2004 07:45:04