Giants in History: Umetaro Suzuki

The vitamin pioneer 

Umetaro Suzuki (7 April 1874 - 20 September 1943)


Umetaro Suzuki (7 April 1874 – 20 September 1943) was a Japanese scientist best remembered for his research on beriberi, a disease caused by vitamin B1 deficiency, characterized by limb stiffness, paralysis and pain. Suzuki discovered that consumption of rice bran prevented beriberi and was the first to successfully extract vitamin B1 from rice bran. Through experiments, Suzuki confirmed that vitamin B1 was essential to prevent beriberi, thus laying the foundation for vitamin science. Suzuki’s findings were initially dismissed by the medical community which thought beriberi was caused by microbial infection, until biochemist Casimir Funk reported he had crystallized a vitamin B compound from rice bran. In addition to isolating vitamin B1, Suzuki also extracted vitamin A from cod liver oil and invented a synthetic saké that did not require preservatives.