Christiaan Eijkman (1858-1930)
Eijkman was called 'the unwilling father of the vitamins'. He worked in the former Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) as a doctor. During a sick leave in the Netherlands he was asked to join the research into the causes of tropical disease beriberi, a disease killing many people at the time. Progress was slow as it became clear that several assumptions including a bacteriological causative agent - were incorrect. After two years, in 1890, Eijkman found that eating unpolished rice (with its coat) prevented the disease and cured it.
Eijkman thought the coat of the rice contained an antibody against the poison of the bacterium that affected the nervous system and caused beriberi. Only in 1916 was he willing to accept that something like a food deficiency could cause something as serious as beriberi. Almost thirty years later Eijkman's successors detected the vitamin B1 in the coat of the rice.
Eijkman worked as a professor at Utrecht University since 1898. His field of research and training consisted of hygiene and forensic medicine always with a keen interest in tropical diseases. In 1930 Eijkman was awarded the Nobel Prize but was too ill to travel in order to accept the Prize. One year later he died. Utrecht University founded the 'Eijkman Graduate School for Immunology and Infectious Diseases' in his memory.