Dr. Casimir Funk – Discoverer
DISCOVERER: DR. CASIMIR FUNK
There is no question about it, all of us are addicted to the vitamin because of its beneficial advantages. And statistics have shown that 75 percent of all American families are also hooked onto a similar vitamin intake program.
Now that I have you talking about vitamins, have you ever considered their origin? Have you ever questioned where the word came from or who was responsible for their exploration and discovery?
You’re absolutely right . . . a Polonian was responsible! He was an eminent biochemist by the name of Dr. Casimir Funk. Born in Warsaw on February 23, 1884, he is considered the “Father of Vitamin Therapy” today!
The son of a brilliant dermatologist father of Polish-Jewish background and a highly cultured mother from a renowned Warsaw family. Casimir, from birth, had a congenital hip dislocation which caused his childhood to be different from that of other youngsters.
Until the age of eight, young Casimir was schooled at home and read extensively. Charles Darwin, the controversial evolutionist, emerged as one of his earliest heroes and Casimir tried experiments in his own garden under the influence of the famed botanist. As he grew older, the youngster yearned for a quicker, more progressive education. He had a brilliant and very original mind.
It can be said that Casimir Funk lead a very nomadic life before coming to the United States in 1915. He attended schools in Augsburg, Germany, and Geneva, Switzerland, before attending the Pasteur Institute of Paris where he studied advanced bacteriology and the Lister Institute in London where he concentrated on preventive medicine.
It was here that Doctor Funk discovered that certain foods could cure specific diseases, and he launched the search that eventually led to the identification and knowledge of vitamins. It came about when he isolated a chemical crystal substance that he labeled as “Vitamins”. In July 1912, the British Journal of State Medicine officially introduced the word. Doctor Funk did encounter difficulties, though, in getting his research accepted until the idea emerged that this chemical material was capable of preventing disease. His recognition grew rapidly afterwards.
Funk suggested that there were many “Vitamins”…..one preventing a disease known as “beri beri” another preventing “scurvy”, a third “pellagra”, and a fourth preventing “rickets”. He speculated that all these “Vitamins” were distinct substances and were responsible for the cure of distinct food deficiency disease.
For example, his discovery of the first pure vitamin — B-1 or Thiamine — and how it came about. He removed the outer layer of the rice kernel, refined it and noticed that the thiamine content was lost. The “beri beri” disease which largely existed in Asian countries where diets consist mainly of refined rice, was gradually reduced. These populations switched back to the healthier natural rice. Funk also did research and prepared papers on Vitamin B-1 in yeast and other vitamin contents in milk and cod liver oil.
In 1920, Funk arrived in America to work at the Cornell Medical College. Three years later, however, he returned to Poland under a Rockefeller Foundation Grant to head the State Institute of Hygiene. It was here that he isolated and distributed the hormone insulin which would eventually be used in treating diabetes and researched male sex hormones putting his findings into a number of research documents.
Funk spent the next eleven years in Paris working on these sex hormones. Finally in 1940, he moved to New York with his family where he became a research consultant to the U.S. Vitamin Corporation developing nutritional relationships between minerals and vitamins. In 1947, he set up the Funk Foundation Institute of Medical Research to pursue the investigation of cancer.
Twenty years later, in 1967, Dr. Casimir Funk died in Albany. Although he did not receive a Nobel Prize, there is no doubt that his work has insured him of a leading position not only among the greatest scientists of the world but also in this history of Polish science where he laid the foundation of biochemistry and raised it to the rank of an independent branch of science.
Undoubtedly, the greatness of Dr. Casimir Funk has affected all of us — especially at the morning breakfast table!
. . . . SEE YOU SOON, GOD BE WILLING . . .