Adolphe Guillaume Vorderman (12 December 1844, The Hague – 15 July 1902, Batavia) was a Dutch physician and scientist whose extensive and scrupulous study of the link between polished rice and Beriberi in the Dutch East Indies in 1897 helped lead to the discovery of vitamins. Adolphe Vorderman was a great-grandfather of British television presenter Carol Vorderman.
In 1883 the Dutch government sent Christiaan Eijkman to the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) to try to determine the cause, and find a cure for, Beriberi. He noticed that chickens fed polished rice – which is rice which has had its bran removed – developed a similar paralysis in their legs. Before he could follow up on this line of enquiry, ill health forced him to return home to the Netherlands. Before leaving he asked his friend Adolphe Vorderman, who was Chief Medical Officer, to continue the research on the link between rice and the disease.
Vorderman, who had already noted that Beriberi occurred a lot in some prisons, but very little in others, decided to conduct a preliminary survey of the type of rice served in a sample of prisons. When that initial study seemed to confirm a link, he decided to conduct a complete study of all prisons.
In 1897 Vorderman visited all of the around 100 prisons on the island of Java. He took samples of the prison rice and examined the prison records to determine the number of Beriberi cases. He kept the real purpose of his visits secret so that word did not get around the Chinese rice suppliers and lead them to change the type of rice they provided.
Later he conducted blind testing with rice experts to discover the make-up and origin of the rice varieties he found in the prison samples.
Vorderman found that in the prisons using mostly brown rice, the incidence of Beriberi was less than 1 in 10,000. In the prisons serving mainly polished white rice the proportion was 1 in 39. In his published report, he concluded that this marked difference could not be explained by any other nutritional or sanitary factor.
Later others, including Gerrit Grijns, took over the research which ultimately led to the discovery of vitamins. In the case of Beriberi, the vitamin that was lost when the bran was removed was thiamin – vitamin B1.
In a 2007 episode of the BBC genealogical documentary series Who Do You Think You Are?, Carol Vorderman researched her great grandfather Adolphe. In the episode, the Director of the Eijkman Institute stated his opinion that had he still been alive at the time, Adolphe Vorderman should have shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine with Eijkman and Sir Frederick Hopkins, who were awarded the prize in 1929 for their vitamin related work. During the program, there was no discussion on whether the dead can be awarded the Nobel Prize.
- The Nobel Prize and the Discovery of Vitamins
- Adolphe Vorderman's 1897 study of beriberi among prison inmates in the Dutch East Indies
- Christiaan Eijkman – Biography
- Adolphe Vorderman By Gercon Vorderman