19th March 1883. Vitamin C.
In 1937 biochemist, Walter Norman Haworth, born Today in 1883, received the Nobel Prize for determining the structure of Ascorbic Acid.(1)
It was an Hungarian scientist who discovered that the spice, Paprika Pepper was a rich source of Hexuronic Acid and sent a sample to Haworth, the sugar chemist who deduced from this the correct structure of Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), and in 1934 was responsible for first synthesizing the Vitamin.
With its anti-scorbutic (scurvy) properties, the name proposed was ‘a-Ascorbic Acid’, (against scurvy), for the compound.
It was a Royal Naval Surgeon James Lind in 1742, who was the first to establish the connection with diet and scurvy and gave lemon juice and citrus fruit to scurvy patients, who survived, which led eventually to the discovery of Vitamin C.
The term Vitamin has had a chequered history as the study of Amines derivative of Ammonia (NH3) in the early 1900.s suggested-wrongly- their ability to cure diseases such as Beri-Beri, Scurvy and Rickets.
Originally termed Vitamine from Vital (Latin meaning Life) and the suffix Amine, as it was originally thought all Vitamins were Amines, which contain Nitrogen.
When it was discovered this was untrue, biochemist Jack Drummond in 1920 suggested that the final ‘E’ be dropped so de-emphasizing the Amino reference after it was discovered that ‘Vitamin C’ had no Nitrogen Compound. Thus now we have ‘e-less’ Vitamins!
An Amine is a molecule of Ammonia (NH3), found widely in biology and results from the breakdown of amino acids.
The release of liquid Amines smells like decaying fish, the smell of Trimethylamine, whilst gaseous Amines have the smell of ammonia.(2)
(1) He was assisted by Sir Edmund Hirst at Armstrong College, Newcastle on Tyne.
Haworth also did work on our understanding of Starch, Cellulose and Glycogen.
(2) Amines are organic compounds containing a base with a Nitrogen atom plus a ‘lone pair’ where one or more Hydrogen atoms is replaced by such as Akyl or Aryl Groups.