Have You Taken Your Orizanins Today?
The first vitamin was isolated in 1910 by Japanese scientist Umetaro Susuki. It would be named Orizanin and we know it today as niacin (vitamin B3). Because of a translation error when going from his paper in Japanese to the lingua franca of the day, German, this novel nutrient discovery was not highlighted. Two years later, a scientist working in London called Casimir Funk, isolated the same nutrient complex and a friend suggested it be called ‘vitamine’, a portmanteau of ‘vital’ and ‘amine’, with the amine a consequence of the belief such nutrients all contained the -NH2 amine group. By the time it was realized not all such nutrients contained this group (see vitamins A and C for example) the name was entrenched, although the final ‘e’ was dropped to lessen the emphasis on the amine part. Of course, if not for the translation issue, the credit would have been Susuki’s and we may all be taking our “Orizanins” today.
Umetaro Suzuki (1874-1943) was a Japanese scientist, born in what is now part of Makinohara, Shizuoka, Japan. He was a member of the Imperial Academy, and a recipient of the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure and the Order of Culture. His research was among the earliest of modern vitamin research.