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Unlike most animals, humans and guinea pigs are unable to synthesize Vitamin C (crystalline form pictured here). Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which protects tissues from the damaging effects of free radicals, and is essential for the growth and maintenance of bones, teeth, gums, and blood vessels. Sailors and invading armies often suffered from a debilitating disease called scurvy caused by a lack of Vitamin C in their diets. But scurvy was never really understood to be caused by a dietary deficiency until 1747, when James Lind, the doctor on the British navy ship HMS Salisbury, performed some controlled experiments on sailors dying of scurvy. The lucky sailors that were fed “two oranges and one lemon given every day” recovered within two weeks. It was not until the 1930’s, however, that ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, was isolated from paprika by Albert Szent-Gyorgi, who used guinea pigs rather than humans as his experimental subjects.
Crystals of ascorbic acid were dissolved in water, and air dried onto a microscope slide, and viewed using a polarized light microscope.
Michael Reese Much FRMS, Bethlehem, PA
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