Birthplace: Nijkerk, Netherlands
Location of death: Utrecht, Netherlands
Cause of death: unspecified
Race or Ethnicity: White
Executive summary: Research led to discovery of vitamins
Military service: Netherlands Indies Army, medical officer
Studying beriberi, a disease of the peripheral nerves, Dutch physician and pathologist Christiaan Eijkman was able to prove that the disease was not caused by blood contamination, respiratory metabolism, perspiration, or seasonal or temperature variation. He suspected the disease was caused by an unknown bacteria, but his eventual discovery of its true cause was accidental.
Chickens in the laboratory had been fed leftover rice from military rations, until a new cook refused to allow the rice to be fed to animals. Rice was then purchased from another source, and the birds soon came down with beriberi. The substitute feed had been polished rice, so he switched the birds' diet back to unpolished rice, and the birds recovered. Eijkman (pronounced Ikmän) surmised that polished rice lacked a dietary component found in unpolished rice, and that beriberi was caused by depriving the body of this component, which he called "the anti-beriberi factor".
Eijkman's findings stirred a great deal of attention, and subsequent research soon showed that a particularly vital amine (organic compound) was present in the skin of rice, and that this compound was removed when the rice was polished. Chemist Casimir Funk shortened the term "vital amine" to coin a new word, vitamin. For his contributions to the discovery of vitamins, Eijkman won the 1929 Nobel Prize for Medicine, sharing the prize with Frederick Hopkins. Funk, perhaps unfairly, was never given full credit for his work.
Father: Christiaan Eijkman (school headmaster, d.)
Mother: Johanna Alida Pool Eijkman (d.)
Wife: Aaltje Wigeri van Edema (m. 1883, d. 1886)
Wife: Berthe Julie Louise van der Kemp Eijkman (m. 1888, d.)
Son: Pieter Hendrik Eijkman (physician, b. 1890, d.)
Medical School: BA Medicine, University of Amsterdam
Medical School: MD, University of Amsterdam (1883)
Scholar: Bacteriology, University of Berlin (1885-86)
Administrator: Pathological Anatomy and Bacteriology, Javanese Medical School, Jakarta, Indonesia
Teacher: University of Utrecht (1896-98)
Professor: Public Health and Forensic Medicine, University of Utrecht (1898-1928)
Nobel Prize for Medicine 1929 (with Frederick Hopkins)
National Academy of Sciences
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