The First Vitamins

Today is the 111th anniversary of the birth of Marguerite Davis, an American chemist who co-discovered vitamins A and B. Davis worked at the University of Wisconsin with Elmer Vernon McCollum, who was trying to create simple mixtures that could replace food in animal diets. It was believed that there were trace chemicals in foods that were essential to life. These mystery substances were called "vitamines" because it was theorized that they were amines, a type of organic molecule. In 1913 Davis and McCollum discovered a new substance in fats that was essential to life and they called it "fat-soluble A." They distinguished it from another substance described by Dutch chemist Christiaan Eijkman, which they studied and called "water-soluble B." The discovery of two vitamins spurred further research in nutrition.

[Source: Emily McMurray, Ed., Notable Twentieth Century Scientists (Gale Research Inc., ITP, 1995).]