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Casimir Funk

FUNK, CASIMIR (1884–1967), U.S. biochemist, originator of the word "vitamin." He was born in Warsaw and obtained his doctorate at the University of Berne in 1904. In 1910 he went to the Lister Institute in London where he studied beriberi, a deficiency disease in rice eaters. He found a substance in rice shavings (and also in yeast and milk) which prevented the disease, and called it "vitamine." This was vitamin B, later known to be a complex of several vitamins. He worked as head of the department of chemistry at the Cancer Hospital Research Institute until he went to America in 1915. With the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, he went back to Warsaw as head of biochemistry at the School of Hygiene (1923–27). During 1928–39 he operated his own Casa Biochemica at Rueil-Malmaison, France, also serving as consultant from 1936 to the U.S. Vitamin Corporation. During World War II he returned to America, and from 1948 was president of the Funk Foundation for Medical Research. Funk contributed numerous papers to scientific periodicals on various matters of synthetic organic chemistry and on other biochemical topics such as internal secretions, diabetes, and cancer. He wrote the book Die Vitamine (1914; The Vitamins, 1922). Funk's hypotheses on the importance of vitamins A, B5, C, and D to normal growth and development stimulated other investigators in the field of nutrition and laid the foundation for rational child nutrition and modern dietetics in general.


B. Harrow, Casimir Funk, Pioneer in Vitamins and Hormones (1955); S.R. Kagan, Jewish Medicine (1952), 192–3.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.