Born in Warsaw, Poland, Kazimierz Funk studied in Berlin and Switzerland, where he finally gained his doctorate in organic chemistry at the University of Bern. After graduation, he first worked at the Pasteur Institute in Paris (1904), in collaboration with Emil Fischer (1906), and later he conducted experiments at the Lister Institute in London (1910).
He temporarily settled down in several countries worldwide: He moved to the United States for a while, then he returned to his native Poland, but found it too politically unstable, and in 1927 moved on to Paris, where he started his own research institution, the Casa Biochemica. After the outbreak of World War II, he moved permanently to America.
He dedicated his work to the study and isolation of a then unknown substance found in brown rice. He finally managed to isolate the substance in 1912, and because that substance contained an amine group, he called it vita amine (vitamin). It was later to be known as vitamin B1 (thiamine).
Vitamine B1, Thiamin pyrophosphate (TPP)
Funk put forward the hypothesis that other diseases could also be cured by vitamins. From 1915 he started working for several American pharmaceutical firms and focused on vitamin products. In 1923 in Warsaw, Funk conducted research into hormones, and in 1928 in Paris, he turned his attention to sex hormones. In 1936 he determined the molecular structure of thiamin, and he was the first to isolate nicotinic acid (vitamin B3). Funk also conducted research into diabetes, ulcers, and the biochemistry of cancer.