Conrad Arnold Elvehjem


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(1901–1962) American biochemist

Elvehjem, the son of a farmer from McFarland, Wisconsin, graduated from and spent his whole career at the University of Wisconsin. He obtained his PhD in 1927, and served as professor of biochemistry from 1936 until 1958, when he became president of the university, a position held until his retirement in 1962.

In 1937, following discoveries by Casimir Funk and Joseph Goldberger, Elvehjem succeeded in producing a new treatment for pellagra. In the 1920s Goldberger had postulated that this disease was caused by a deficiency of ‘P-P’ (pellagra preventive) factor present in milk. In 1913 Funk, while searching for a cure for beriberi, came across nicotinic acid in rice husks. Although it was of little use against beriberi, Elvehjem found that even in minute doses it would dramatically remove the symptoms of blacktongue, the canine equivalent of pellagra. Tests on humans revealed the same remarkable effects on pellagra.

Elvehjem, a prolific author with over 800 papers to his credit, also worked on the role of trace elements in nutrition, showing the essential role played by such minerals as copper, zinc, and cobalt.

Subjects: Science and Mathematics.

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