1994 Masquelier recalls meetings With Szent-Gyorgyi the Father of Vitamin C

In December 1994, an interview with Jack Masquelier was recorded in the study of his summer house in Martillac (France).  Szent-Gyorgyi was a Hungarian physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1937. He is credited with discovering vitamin C and the components and reactions of the citric acid cycle. Mr. Masquelier is Professor Emeritus of the University of Bordeaux. The interview took place during the production of the video tape that accompanies the revised the 2nd edition of Masquelier’s great book on the discovery of OPC. During that conversation, Professor Masquelier, who may well be credited for having solved the “vitamin C co-factor” part of the story, recalled his meetings with Szent-Gyorgyi. “I met him at Oxford in 1947, at the first international Physiology Congress that took place after the Second World War. He has been to Bordeaux as well. He was awarded an honorary degree from our university. He was very interested in my work at the time. I did research on a substance had a considerable effect on the capillary resistance (permeability) in guinea pigs. Szent-Gyorgyi had come to see me in my laboratory. He said, ‘But Mr. Masquelier, are you still interested in that? Don’t you know that in the U.S. no one believes in bioflavonoids (citrin) anymore?’ So even he, the father of vitamin P, had abandoned this track, because he hadn’t been able to explain why he would sometimes get a good result and sometimes a bad result.”

Masquelier vividly remembers how to unsolved puzzle had left his Hungarian colleague with a “feeling of regret. Szent-Gyorgyi,” Masquelier recalls, “liked to joke about his two discoveries (vitamin C and citrin). He received the Nobel Prize for his work on vitamin C, whereas for him vitamin C wasn’t really a vitamin but merely a nutritional element. Szent-Gyorgyi realized that the required daily intake of ascorbic acid was rather high, whereas by definition vitamins are substance of which only a few milligrams a day are required. So, Szent-Gyorgyi received the Nobel Prize for his discovery of a vitamin, but he didn’t like it to be called a vitamin. And later, after he had isolated citrin and named it vitamin P, they refused to call his vitamin P a vitamin because, as they put it, it was no possible to reproduce a state of citrin-avitaminosis. On various occasions, Szent-Gyorgyi told ‘It’s unbelievable. They have made me the father of vitamin C, while I wasn’t, and they have refused to make me the father of vitamin P, which I was.’ You know, there was always this feeling of regret, because he knew that both substances were needed to conquer scurvy.”

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