Christiaan Eijkman

Christiaan Eijkman

Eijkman, Christiaan, 1858-1930, Dutch physician. He was head of the Pathological Institute of Batavia and later (1898-1928) professor of hygiene at the Univ. of Utrecht. His work at Batavia on the cause of beriberi led to the isolation of the antineuritic vitamins. For this he shared with F. G. Hopkins the 1929 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

(born Aug. 11, 1858, Nijkerk, Neth.—died Nov. 5, 1930, Utrecht) Dutch physician and pathologist. While seeking a bacterial cause for beriberi, he noticed a resemblance between a nerve disorder in his laboratory chickens and that seen in beriberi. He eventually showed that the cause was their diet of white rather than brown rice, but he believed the disorder was caused by a toxin even after it was shown to be due to thiamin deficiency. His work led to the discovery of vitamins and earned him a 1929 Nobel Prize, shared with Frederick Gowland Hopkins.

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Christiaan Eijkman (August 11, 1858, NijkerkNovember 5, 1930, Utrecht) was a Dutch physician and pathologist whose demonstration that beriberi is caused by poor diet led to the discovery of vitamins. Together with Sir Frederick Hopkins, he received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

Although Eijkman had been sent to Indonesia to study Beriberi, the discovery of the cause was accidental. He noticed the symptoms in some chickens used in his laboratory when their feed had been altered temporarily. Eijkman was unable to continue his research due to ill health, but a study by his friend Adolphe Vorderman confirmed the link between polished rice and the disease. Eventually it was determined the missing compound that was causing Beriberi was vitamin B1, thiamine.


  • Lodewijk Palm, Christiaan Eijkman 1858 -1930 In: K. van Berkel, A. van Helden and L. Palm ed., A history of Science in the Netherlands. Survey, Themes and Reference (Leiden: Brill, 1999) 447 - 449.

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