Polish-American biochemist Casimir Funk celebrated in today's Google Doodle

Polish-American biochemist Casimir Funk celebrated in today's Google Doodle

Google Doodle of Polish-American biochemist Casimir Funk on what would have been his 140th birthday


If you go to the Google homepage today (Friday, February 23), you'll come across the latest Google Doodle of biochemist Casimir Funk working away happily on his latest project.

The Polish-American was among the very first to discover and introduce vitamins and essential nutrients that are needed to maintain health in humans.

Today would have been Funk's 140th birthday.

Funk was born on this day (February 23) in 1884 in Warsaw, Poland.

After growing up there and studying at high school, he traveled to Switzerland to study biology and chemistry.

Funk received his PhD in organic chemistry at the University of Bern aged just 20, and began to work across Europe within various research institutions.

He later became more interested in how food ingredients could have effects on illnesses such as cancer, pellagra, rickets and scurvy.

In 1911, Funk started to experiment with a substance called B1, or thiamine, and formed it into edible crystals that helped to promote the growth and function of various cells, naming the creation vitamins.

Four years later, in 1915 during the First World War, he moved to New York City and became an American citizen in 1920.

During his time in America, he worked at a number of universities in research position and went on to work as a consultant to the US Vitamin Corporation.

Funk then continued his research into vitamins, discovering different kinds and looking at the foods they could be found in.

He then published a book called Die Vitamine which helped scientists around the world discover 13 different vitamins over the next three-and-a-half decades.

Funk also researched into diabetes, hormones, peptic ulcers and the biochemistry of cancer.

He died aged 83 in Albany, New York on November 19, 1967.

Erik Funk, Casimir's grandson, said: "From his family's perspective, Casimir was a driven and curious child, always eager to explore the world around him.

"He pursued his education with passion despite facing obstacles as a Jewish student in Europe during a time of rising anti-Semitism.

"Casimir Funk's contributions to science were immense, but he was not just a brilliant scientist; he was also a loving son, brother, husband and grandfather.

"His family remembers him as a man of integrity, kindness, and humility.

"Despite his international acclaim, Casimir remained deeply connected to his roots and cherished his family ties.

"Tragically, Casimir's life was cut short when he passed away.

"However, his legacy endures through his groundbreaking discoveries and the countless lives he has touched through his pioneering work in the field of biochemistry and nutrition.

"For his family, Casimir Funk will always be remembered not only as a pioneering scientist but also as a beloved member of their family whose passion for knowledge and commitment to improving human health also inspired our families' commitment to pursue careers and interests in health, medicine and nutrition.

The Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America gives out an annual award called the Casimir Funk Natural Sciences Award, with previous winners including Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffman.

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