Nobel Prize Recipient. He received international acclaim for his research of vitamins, for which he was awarded the 1929 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, sharing the award with Sir Frederick Hopkins. Although Dr James Lind made it known from the 1700s that eating limes would cure a sailor's scurvy, Eijkman demonstrated that the disease Beriberi was caused by poor diet, which led to the discovery of vitamins. By 1928, he had retired with declining health problems and was unable to travel to Sweden to accept his Nobel Prize in person, but his intended acceptance address was read during the ceremony and later published in “Les Prix Nobel,” which has been digitized in English and online. Born the seventh of ten children of a school teacher, Christiann Eijkman, and Johann Alida Pool, he had gifted brothers with one being a chemist and professor, another was a linguist, and a third was the first roentgenologists in the Netherlands. He received his medical degree from the University of Amsterdam on July 13, 1883 graduating magna cum laude. As payment for his education, he served as a medical officer in Java in the Dutch East Indies, present day Indonesia, from 1883 until November of 1885, when he had a severe attack of malaria and was sent home. His young wife died two months after returning home. He studied bacteriology in Berlin, Germany with Robert Koch, 1905 Nobel Prize recipient, before returning to Java seeking the cause of Beriberi. Both the Native and European population were dying from renal failure, congestive heart failure and neurological problems related to having Beriberi. In 1888, he was appointed director of a small research laboratory along with being the Director the Javanese Medical School and teaching physiology and organic chemistry. At first, he and other scientists thought Beriberi was a contagious disease, but that was eliminated. When his laboratory chickens were diagnosed in 1890 with polyneuritis, he reasoned that problem was similar to polyneuritis occurring in Beriberi patients. In 1897, he was able to prove that the fowl's polyneuritis was caused by a diet of polished rice in stead of unpolished. Initially, he believed the polyneuritis was caused by a toxic chemical, but although he was slow in agreeing with the results, this was proven incorrect by Gerrit Grijin in 1901. The cause of Beriberi was a nutritional deficiency, which in 1912 was determined by Polish-American biochemist, Casimir Funk, to be lack of Vitamin B1 or Thiamine in the diet. Eijkman and Grijin were nominated for the Nobel Prize together in 1927 and 1928, but Hopkins was his joint recipient in 1929. In 1888 he remarried; the couple had a son that became a physician; in 1896 he returned from the Netherlands with poor health; and he served as a professor of public health and forensic medicine at the University of Utrecht from 1898 until his 1928 retirement. During the remaining years of his career, he researched numerous other projects and giving expert advice. Besides the Nobel Prize, he was received numerous Dutch honors including being elected to the Royal Academy of Sciences of the Netherlands in 1907. World-wide recognition included being the recipient of the John Scott Medal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, honorary fellow of the Royal Sanitary Institute in London, England, and a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D. C. His research laboratory was renamed the Eijkman Institute of Molecular Biology by the Government of Indonesia. At the University of Utrecht, the non-profited government funded microbiology department was later named the Eijkman-Winkler Institute of Medical and Clinical Microbiology.
Bio by: Linda Davis