This week I had vitamins on my mind.
From Tuesday-Wednesday I had a borderline flu-cold* and so to remedy had several weeks’ worth of lemon consumption in a 48 hour period.
With all this Vitamin C doing its business, it got me realising that I didn’t actually know if there was any logic behind the letter naming convention.
What is a vitamin?
A vitamin is classified as an organic molecule that is an essential micronutrient. They were only officially “discovered” in 1910.
There are 13 types of vitamin: A, C, D, E, K and eight B vitamins.
What’s the naming convention?
It’s quite simple really: the order in which they were discovered.
The gaps in the alphabet are because things that were initially thought of as vitamins were later declassified (or renamed to be a subseries of B vitamins, e.g. Vitamin H become B7), and by the time science had moved on and dished out new letters to everyone.
Vitamin itself is named as such after Polish scientist (great name: Professor Funk) adopted the compound for the words ‘vital’ and ‘amines’, the latter being a chemical structure that also encapsulates things like amino acids.
Isn’t Wikipedia great?
The real MVP here is Wikipedia.
It’s amazing how simple this exercise was to research and have all of the important info in a concise and conveniently organised manner with just the level of detail.
I was reading a book recently set in 2000. The main character had to find out some fairly mundane information about countries near the North Pole. Their only option was to take a bus across town, walk to the public library, ask at reception where the reference shelves were, and then scour through reams of volumes to find the information they needed.
That, and how anyone arranged any sort of mildly logistically complex social activity before mobile phones, blows my mind.
* a good test is this: if you saw a £20 on the floor, would you pick it up? Yes: cold. No: flu.
In other news…
I was at dinner this week with a couple who used to live in Sudan. Turns out, I knew very little about the place.
In the 1960s it was a fun-loving country (“woman wore mini-skirts”). For the past 20-30 years, it’s been Islamic authoritarian rule.
Right now, there are apparently mass protests against the repression: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-46993546
This post originally featured in the newsletter I write. If you’d like to sign up to receive it at the start of each month, you can do so below: