November 13 – Happy Birthday, Edward Doisy

Posted on November 13, 2014

People are always talking about Vitamin C, urging us to ward off colds before they start by taking Vitamin C. Sometimes people talk about adding Vitamin D to milk and getting Vitamin D from sunlight, and sometimes they talk about the B vitamins (I've noticed that Vitamin B12 is especially noteworthy!). I often hear parents remind kids that there is Vitamin A in carrots, and that's why carrots are so good for our eyes, so eat up! And I've seen several people rub Vitamin E on their scars to make them smaller and thinner – although apparently Vitamin E doesn't really work to do that!

But who ever talks about Vitamin K?

And why is it K, instead of F (which is next after Vitamin A, B, C, D, and E)?

And what, oh, what does Vitamin K have to do with today?

Last question first:

Today is the birthday of an American biochemist named Edward Doisy, and he and Henrik Dam discovered Vitamin K and its structure.

He even won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this discovery!

So...what exactly is Vitamin K?

It is really important, because this vitamin is required to make proteins that are required for blood coagulation (also known as blood clotting). And blood clots are important so we don't bleed to death from the first tiny cut we get!

Learn more about coagulation, or blood clotting, here

There are other uses for Vitamin K as well (for bone health, as a weapon against fungi, and so forth).

Why the letter “K”?

Doisy's work on Vitamin K was informed by the work by Danish scientist Dam, whose research was first published in a German journal. In German, the vitamin was called Koagulationsvitamin – and eventually, of course, people shortened that to Vitamin K.

Also on this date:

Women's education rights activist Dorothea Erxleben 

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