Casimir Funk

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Casimir Funk
Casimir Funk 01.jpg
Kazimierz Funk
Born (1884-02-23)February 23, 1884
Warsaw, Russian Empire
Died November 20, 1967(1967-11-20) (aged 83)
New York, United States
Nationality Poland
United Kingdom
United States
Fields Biochemist
Institutions Pasteur Institute, Lister Institute, Funk Foundation for Medical Research
Alma mater University of Bern, Switzerland
Known for Nutritional research, formulation of the concept of vitamins

Kazimierz Funk[1] [kaˈʑimiɛʐ ˈfuŋk] (February 23, 1884 – November 19, 1967[2]), commonly anglicized as Casimir Funk, was a Polish biochemist,[3] generally credited with being amongst the first to formulate the concept of vitamins in 1912,[4] which he called vital amines or vitamines.[5] Umetaro Suzuki had succeeded in extracting a water-soluble complex of micronutrients from rice bran and named it aberic acid in 1910, but the German translation unlike the Japanese original failed to note it was a newly discovered nutrient.

Contribution to science[edit]

After reading an article by the Dutchman Christiaan Eijkman that indicated people eating brown rice were less vulnerable to beri-beri than those who ate only the fully milled product, he tried to isolate the substance responsible and he succeeded around 1912. Because that substance contain an amine group, he called it vitamine. It was later to be known as vitamin B3 (niacin), although he thought that it would be thiamine and described it as "anti-beri-beri-factor". He put forward the hypothesis that other diseases, like rickets, pellagra, sprue and scurvy could also be cured by vitamins.[6] The "e" at the end of vitamine was later removed when it was realized that vitamins need not be nitrogen containing amines.

He later postulated the existence of other essential nutrients, which became known as B1, B2, C, and D. In 1936 he determined the molecular structure of thiamin, though he was not the first to isolate it.

Funk also conducted research into hormones, diabetes, ulcers, and the biochemistry of cancer.

The Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America (PIASA) annually honors Polish-American scientists with the Casimir Funk Natural Sciences Award. Past winners include Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann, Aleksander Wolszczan, Hilary Koprowski, Peter T. Wolczanski, Wacław Szybalski and Benoît Mandelbrot.

Funk returned to the USA In 1940 he became the president of the Funk Foundation for Medical Research and ended his career in pursuit of orally active spleenic extracts.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Iłowiecki, Maciej (1981). Dzieje nauki polskiej. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Interpress. p. 177. ISBN 83-223-1876-6. 
  2. ^ (English) Griminger P Casimir Funk A Biographical Sketch (1884–1967). Journal of Nutrition 1972 Sep;102(9):1105–13. PMID 4560436. Available from:
  3. ^ Casimir Funk denied his Jewish identity, according to his granddaughter
  4. ^ Just The Facts-Inventions & Discoveries, School Specialty Publishing, 2005
  5. ^
  6. ^ Casimir Funk, The etiology of the deficiency diseases. Beri-beri, polyneuritis in birds, epidemic deopsy, scurvy, experimental scurvy in animals, infantile scurvy, ship beri-beri, pellagra. In: Journal of State Medicine 20, 1912, p. 341–368

Further reading[edit]

  • Harow, Benjamin CASIMIR FUNK-Pioneer in Vitamins and Hormones. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York,N. Y., 1955. 209 pages.
  • Biography
  • Review of Harow's biography at pubmedcentral, pdf
  • Biography at FAQs, nutrition accessed Dec 2006.
  • Piro, Anna; Tagarelli, Giuseppe; Lagonia, Paolo; Tagarelli, Antonio; Quattrone, Aldo (1 January 2010). "Casimir Funk: His Discovery of the Vitamins and Their Deficiency Disorders". Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 57 (2): 85–88. doi:10.1159/000319165. 
  • Griminger, Paul (September 1972). "Casimir Funk--a biographical sketch (1884-1967)". Journal of Nutrition 102 (9): 1105–1113. 
  • "Funk, Casimir." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Vol. 5. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2008. 208-209. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 19 July 2012.