This is the beginning of a new series of articles on Vitamins.
The word was coined by Sir Jack Cecil Drummond D.Sc., FRIC, FRS (12 Jan 1891—4 Aug or 5 Aug 1952). He was a distinguished biochemist, noted for his work on nutrition as applied to the British diet under rationing during the Second World War. He was murdered, together with his wife and 10-year old daughter, on the night of 4 Aug - 5 Aug 1952 near Lurs, a village or commune in the Basses-Alpes region (now Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) of Southern France. The name derives from 'vital amine' which Polish biochemist Kazimierz Funk contacted to 'Vitamine'. Drummond merely suggested dropping the final 'e' when it became clear that not all vitamins are amines.
The story of vitamins begins with Scottish surgeon James Lind who in 1749, the discovered that citrus foods such as lemons and limes prevented scurvy, disease of sailors in which collagen is not properly formed, causing poor wound healing, bleeding of the gums, severe pain, and death. In 1753, Lind published his Treatise on the Scurvy, which recommended using lemons and limes to avoid scurvy, which was adopted by the Royal Navy. So British sailors and later all Englishmen became known as Limeys.
Others such as Estonian surgeon Nikolai Lunin, Takaki Kanehiro, a British trained doctor of the Japanese Navy, Christiaan Eijkman, a Dutch pathologist working in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins OM FRS from Cambridge all made contributions to the realisation that some foods contained "accessory factors" in addition to proteins, carbohydrates, fats, etc. that are necessary for the functions of the human body. Hopkins and Eijkman were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1929 for the discovery of vitamins.
Vitamins are cheap and although we all need them, most are found in a normal diet. Some substances have been proposed as vitamins and are not and for some it has been proposed that we need far higher doses than are in a normal diet. We shall look at this proposition.
The story of vitamins is an exciting one and I shall enjoy writing it over the next few weeks.