Episode 16: Vitamania!

“Pure Orange,” from stock.xchng, by somadjinn.

In today’s show we take a closer look at vitamins, the tiny substances that are vital to our health. You’ll hear how the British biochemist Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins discovered vitamins (or, as he preferred, “vitamines”) in 1909 and find out why the rate of rickets is once again increasing. Finally, producer Jocelyn Ford takes us to Shijiazhuang in China’s Hebei Province for a visit to the world’s largest Vitamin C factory. Element of the Week: Iron.

Show Clock

00:00     Opening Credits
00:31     Introduction
01:39     Mystery Solved: Rickets
04:35     Element of the Week: Iron
06:41     Making Vitaming C
10:18     Quotation: George Bernard Shaw
10:38     Closing Credits

Resources and References

The title of today’s episode is from Rima Apple’s wonderful book, Vitamania: Vitamins in American Culture (Rutgers University Press, 1996).
For a historical perspective on rickets: Kumaravel Rajakumar, “Vitamin D, Cod-Liver Oil, Sunlight, and Rickets: A Historical Perspective,” Pediatrics 112 (2003): e132–e135.
On Vitamin D and milk: This fact sheet from the University of California, Riverside.
On iron and anemia: This fact sheet from Rutgers University Health Services.
On hemochromatosis: This helpful entry from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.
Although today’s quote has been widely attributed to George Bernard Shaw, we have not been able to locate an official source. Please let us know if you’ve heard otherwise!


Special thanks to Anke Timmermann for researching the show.

Our theme music is composed by Dave Kaufman. Additional music was provided by the Podsafe Music Network. The music at the beginning of Mystery Solved! is “Joan of Arc,” by 46Bliss; the segment ends with “Steel Away,” by Wade Austin. The Element of the Week ends with the YoungBlood Brass Band’s “Is That a Riot?” The feature on Vitamin C includes “I Can Taste the Colors,” by Edgar Malaran. The music at the quotation is “Colorado,” by the John Conahan Group.



Posted In: History | Society

comments powered by Disqus

By posting your comment, you agree to abide by CHF’s Comment Policies.

The Museum at CHF

The Museum at CHF

Explore the fascinating history of chemistry and the role science plays in the modern world at our museum in Philadelphia.


Distillations Magazine
Support CHF and receive our award-winning quarterly magazine.

Join the Conversation

Distillations Blog logo
Our blog brings the stories of science and culture directly to you.