Today in Science History – February 21 – Carl Dam and Vitamin K

Henrik Dam
Henrik Dam (1895 – 1976)
Nobel Foundation

February 21 is Carl Henrik Dam’s birthday. Dam was a Danish biochemist who discovered vitamin K.

Dam was working with chickens to determine if cholesterol is a necessary part of their diet. He fed them chicken feed with all fat removed. The chickens fell ill and began to hemorrhage internally. When Dam fed the chickens pure cholesterol, their symptoms cleared up. Something in the cholesterol helped the chicken’s blood to coagulate but did not match up with any of the other known vitamins. He called his new coagulation nutrient Koagulations-Vitamin or vitamin K.

Dam would earn half the 1943 Nobel Prize in Medicine for this discovery. Edward Doisy would win the other half of the prize for isolating and synthesized two versions of Vitamin K and determining their structures.

Today in Science History Events for February 21

1999 – Gertrude Belle Elion died.

Gertrude Elion
Gertrude Elion (1918 – 1999)

Elion was an American biochemist who shares the 1988 Nobel Prize in Medicine with James Black and George Hitchings for their work in developing drugs for a multitude of diseases and pathogens. Elion and Hitchings designed pharmaceuticals that relied on subtle biochemical differences between healthy cells and the pathogens that affect these cells. The drugs would target the difference and stop or kill the pathogen without harming the healthy cells.

1968 – Howard Walter Florey died.

Howard Walter Florey
Howard Walter Florey (1898 – 1968)

Florey was an Australian pathologist who shared the 1945 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Ernst Boris Chain and Walter Fleming for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effects on various diseases. Florey and Chain discovered a method to isolate and purify penicillin for clinical use.

1948 – Polaroid debuted “instant photography”

Polaroid land camera Model 95
Polaroid’s first instant camera, the Model 95 Land Camera

The Polaroid Land camera made its public debut.

Edwin Land demonstrated his camera to that would allow people to produce a black and white photograph in about sixty seconds. The film contained the necessary chemicals to develop and fix the image directly on the photographic paper.

The Land Camera Model 95, also known as “The Speedliner” contained a 130mm lens and 8 preset shutter speeds. It could be folded shut to protect the lens and easier portability. The original 1948 price of this camera was $89.75.

1941 – Frederick Grant Banting died.

Frederick Banting
Frederick Banting (1891 – 1941). Arthur S. Goss / Library and Archives Canada

Banting was a Canadian physician who shares the 1923 Nobel Prize in Medicine with John James Richard Macleod for their parts in the discovery of insulin. He shared his prize money with his assistant Charles Best since they both worked on the extraction of insulin and discovering its role in the treatment of diabetes in dogs.

1938 – George Ellery Hale died.

George Ellery Hale
George Ellery Hale (1868 – 1938)

Hale was an American astronomer who invented the spectroheliograph which allowed him to take photographs of the sun. He discovered the 22-year cycle of sunspot activity. He also founded the Mount Wilson Observatory in southern California to study the sun. The 200-inch telescope at the Palomar Mountain Observatory was paid for by funds raised by him and ultimately was named the Hale telescope after his death.

1926 – Heike Kamerlingh Onnes died.

Heike Kamerlingh Onnes
Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853 – 1926)

Onnes was a Dutch physicist who was awarded the 1913 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in low-temperature physics and creating liquid helium. He also investigated the electrical properties of materials near absolute zero and discovered their electrical resistance nearly disappeared.

He discovered mercury entered a state of superconductivity at 4.2 K.

1895 – Carl Peter Henrik Dam was born.

1554 – Hieronymus Bock (Jerome Boch) died.

Hieronymus Bock
Hieronymus Bock (1498 – 1554)

Bock was a German minister, physician, and botanist who one of the earliest published botanists. He classified and arranged many German plants by their physical properties. His book “Kreuter Büch” (plant book) contained 700 different German plants with information on their characteristics and medicinal uses.