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Christiaan Eijkman

(1858—1930) Dutch physician

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Dutch physician and pathologist who discovered that beriberi is caused by a deficient diet, which later led to the discovery of vitamins. He shared the 1929 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Sir Frederick Hopkins.

After graduating from the University of Amsterdam (1883), Eijkman served as medical officer in the Dutch East Indies and, following a two-year interval studying under Robert Koch (1843–1910) in Berlin, he returned to Java to carry out investigations on beriberi. While searching for a bacterial cause of the disease, in 1890 he noticed that his laboratory chickens were suffering a nervous condition similar to that associated with beriberi; in 1897 he found that this was caused by feeding them polished rice. He believed that some toxic chemical was produced in the digestion of the rice but it was later shown by his successor, Gerrit Grijns, that the symptoms were due to deficiency of some factor (later found to be vitamin B\1) which was present in unrefined rice but was removed during polishing. Eijkman returned to the Netherlands in 1896, becoming professor of public health and forensic medicine at the University of Utrecht (1898–1928).

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