You don’t hear much about the disease beriberi anymore. Part of the reason is that breakfast cereals include a mysterious ingre
dient called thiamine.
Thiamine is the vitamin that started it all.
Beriberi is an illness that attacks the nervous system and makes people weak and listless. Beriberi literally means “weakness weakness.”
During the late 1800s the Japanese navy was having a problem with beriberi among its sailors. They cracked the problem when they made the sailors eat brown rice instead of white rice. There was something in that brown rice that seemed to save the day.
A Polish biochemist named Casimir Funk isolated what was in the brown stuff. It turned out to be thiamine.
As its name implies, thiamine is part of a group of chemicals known as amines. Casimir Funk was rightly excited at the isolation of this life-giving chemical and he joined a chorus of other nutritional scientists predicting that with more research other chemicals could be uncovered and found to be essential to our health. There were likely a bunch of diseases that could be prevented if only we could find out the little bit of stuff we needed to eat that would prevent them.
In 1912 he coined a new term for these various little bits of stuff: vitamines.
He made up the word based on the Latin vita meaning “life” and amine the class of chemicals that thiamine belonged to.
Casimir Funk was right about there being all kinds of illness that we could prevent with the right vitamins but he was wrong in supposing that just because thiamine was an amine, all the other vitamins were likely to be amines too.
And so it was that the word was punished by the removal of its “e” so that people wouldn’t ever be fooled again into thinking that a vitamin needed to be an amine.
Although thiamine was the first vitamin to be called a vitamin it is also known to us as Vitamin B1. You’d think that the first vitamin might be called Vitamin A1 wouldn’t you.
尽管硫胺是第一种被称为vitamin的维生素，它却被人们叫做Vitamin B1。您大概会想，第一种维生素大概会被叫做Vitamin A1，对吧？
Well the reason it’s B1 that as people discovered more of these things that seemed to be so good for us, they began to notice that some of them were soluble in water and others were soluble in fats. A scientist named Elmer McCollum called the fat soluble vitamins A, and the water soluble vitamins B.
其实，它之所以被命名为B1，其原因在于维生素的溶解特性：在发现了更多此类对健康有益的元素之后，科学家们注意到，其中一些元素溶于水，而另一些则溶于油脂。于是，一位名为埃尔默?麦考伦（Elmer McCollum）的科学家便把脂溶性维生素叫做vitamins A，水溶性维生素叫做vitamins B。
The event that caused a C vitamin to be named was the same event that resulted in the word vitamin being punished with the loss of its “e”.
A and B were amines, here’s another one that prevents scurvy but it isn’t an amine, better call it C.