Carl Peter Henrik Dam


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Danish biochemist who discovered vitamin K, for which he was awarded the 1943 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

The son of a chemist, Dam received his MSc in chemistry from the Polytechnic Institute, Copenhagen, in 1920. After a period at the Royal School of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine (1920–23), he was appointed to the physiology department at Copenhagen University, becoming assistant professor and then associate professor of biochemistry. In 1934, Dam published the results of his dietary experiments involving chicks. He found that a certain nutrient was essential for proper functioning of the blood clotting mechanism: he termed this nutrient ‘Koagulation factor’ (hence vitamin K). Dam went on to extract vitamin K, one of several related fat-soluble menaquinone derivatives found especially in green vegetables, and to apply it to the prevention of haemorrhaging in clinical use.

In 1940 Dam went on a lecture tour of the USA and stayed for the duration of World War II as a research associate at Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester. In 1946 he returned home to become professor of biochemistry and head of biology at the Polytechnic Institute. Apart from vitamin K, he worked mainly on the metabolism of sterols and other lipids.

Subjects: Science and Mathematics — Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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