Early in the 20th century, research in the nutritional arena was blossoming. Scientists were swiftly realizing that the nutritional requirements to "support life, growth and reproduction" in both animals and humans were more than simply proteins, carbohydrates, fats and minerals, as commonly believed. And, all scientists working in the field knew that this missing knowledge was key to relieving a host of common afflictions.
In 1912 one scientist, Casimir Funk, isolated a substance found in the hulls of rice that cured beriberi, a nutritional disease linked to thiamine (B1) deficiency. From this revelation, he theorized that other diet-related ailments such as pellagra, scurvy and rickets could also be a consequence of deficiencies of yet unidentified substances. He further hypothesized that these substances would have the same basic property of a protein, and called them "vital amines" or "vitamines" Later this term was embraced (with the ‘e’ omitted) and became a major focus of nutritional research for the next 30 years, yielding discovery after discovery of essential nutrients.