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September 28, 1935


JAMA. 1935;105(13):1040. doi:10.1001/jama.1935.02760390034012

In 1911 Funk proposed the term "beriberi vitamine" for the active substance the lack of which in the diet led to polyneuritis. Subsequently the designation "vitamine" (later contracted to "vitamin") was employed for an ever growing group of principles of unknown chemical constitution occurring in the diet and necessary to health or, ultimately, to life. In order to avoid difficulties in the nomenclature of these dietary factors, which became associated more or less fortuitously, McCollum suggested that alphabetical designations be employed for them until such time as chemical names could be assigned. Drummond in 1920 combined the terms of Funk and McCollum;1 since then "vitamin A, B, C" and so on have been used almost uniformly in the literature, though not always to designate the same substances.

It appears that, owing to popularization of the terms, the use of the alphabetical designations of McCollum has persisted in some cases