Who Is Christiaan Eijkman? What Did Christiaan Eijkman Do?

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Who is Christiaan Eijkman? Information on Christiaan Eijkman biography, life story, works and contributions to science.

christiaan eijkmanChristiaan Eijkman; (1858-1930), Dutch pathologist and bacteriologist, who was awarded the 1929 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discovery of the anti-neuritic vitamin. He shared the award with the English biochemist Sir Frederick Hopkins.

Eijkman was born in Nijkerk, the Netherlands, on Aug. 11, 1858. He received his medical degree from the University of Amsterdam in 1883. In 1887 he joined a commission sent to Batavia, Netherlands East Indies (now Djakarta, Indonesia), to investigate beriberi, a widespread disorder characterized by polyneuritis, which causes numbness and paralysis and sometimes leads to death. The commission’s findings were inconclusive, but Eijkman remained in Batavia as director of a scientific laboratory. In his research he observed that some of his laboratory chickens developed polyneuritis-type symptoms when fed scraps of polished rice and that the symptoms disappeared when the chickens were fed unpolished rice. In the late 1890’s Eijkman and his co-workers proved that unpolished rice contains an antineuritic factor. This factor subsequently became known as vitamin B1. This discovery of the cause of beriberi helped establish the concept of deficiency disease and the role and use of vitamins.

In 1896, Eijkman returned to the Netherlands and taught at the University of Utrecht until 1928. He died in Utrecht on Nov. 5, 1930.

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