Carl Peter Henrik Dam was a Danish biochemist who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Edward A. Doisy in 1943. “For his discovery of vitamin K,” he was awarded the prize. He graduated in chemistry at the Copenhagen Polytechnic Institute, where he was born into a poor household of an apothecary and a teacher. He began his profession as a chemistry instructor at the School of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine after graduating. Within three years, he was promoted to biochemistry instructor at the University of Copenhagen’s Physiological Laboratory. He finished his doctoral dissertation on the biological importance of sterines. During that time, he discovered vitamin K while researching the metabolism of sterines in chickens. He observed the chickens had a deficiency condition that led them to bleed readily and lacked blood clotting ability after they were fed a restricted cholesterol-free diet. He attributed the condition to a deficiency in an anti-hemorrhagic vitamin that he found to be fat-soluble and found in green leaves. He gave it the name vitamin K. (Koagulations-Vitamin). He and Doisy worked independently to extract the vitamin from alfalfa in 1939. They were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in 1943.
Childhood and Adolescence
Henrik Dam was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 21, 1895. Emil Dam, his father, was an apothecary, and Emilie Dam, his mother, was a teacher. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Copenhagen Polytechnic Institute in 1920.
Career of Henrik Dam
Henrik Dam worked as an instructor (assistant) in chemistry at the School of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine after graduating. He was hired as a biochemistry instructor at the University of Copenhagen’s Physiological Laboratory in 1923.
In 1925, he studied microchemistry at the University of Graz in Austria, where he was mentored by Fritz Pregl, the Nobel Laureate in Chemistry in 1923. In 1928, he was appointed Assistant Professor at Copenhagen University’s Institute of Biochemistry.
In 1929, he was promoted to Associate Professor at the same university in less than a year. He earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Copenhagen in 1934. ‘Nogle Undersgelser over Sterinernes Biologiske Betydning’ was the title of his PhD dissertation (Some Investigations on The Biological Significance of The Sterines).
He collaborated with Rudolph Schoenheimer in Freiburg, Germany in 1932–1933 and later with P. Karrer of Zurich in 1935 to further his study on sterine metabolism after earning the Rockefeller Fellowship.
During this time, he discovered vitamin K while researching the metabolism of sterines in chickens. He looked into its prevalence, biological function in animals and plants, and use in human medicine in great detail.
He also looked into the molecular and physical properties of vitamin K at a fundamental level. In conjunction with P. Karrer, he later researched its purification and separation.
The investigation of vitamin K in animals revealed some new symptoms, such as enhanced capillary permeability and adipose tissue coloration. This was caused by a lack of vitamin E and the use of certain fats. Under the auspices of the American Scandinavian Foundation, he traveled on a lecture tour to Canada and the United States in 1940–1941. In 1941, he worked at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratories.
He worked as a Senior Research Associate at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York, from 1942 until 1945. During this time, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which he received in 1943. In 1945, he joined the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research as an Associate Member.
He was appointed Professor of Biochemistry at the Copenhagen Polytechnic Institute in 1941 while he was away in the United States. In 1946, he returned to Denmark and resumed his work on vitamin K, vitamin E, lipids, cholesterol, and nutritional studies in relation to gallstone formation.
His title at the Polytechnic Institute of Copenhagen was modified to Professor of Biochemistry and Nutrition in 1950. He was the head of the Danish Fat Research Institute’s Biochemical Division from 1956 until 1962.
He authored or co-authored over 300 articles on biochemical issues, with a focus on the biochemistry of sterols, vitamins K and E, and lipids.
Major Projects of Henrik Dam
Henrik Dam experimented with a restricted, cholesterol-free diet while examining the metabolism of sterines in hens. He noted that the hens bled easily and had a diminished ability to coagulate blood after only a few weeks. He healed them by giving them pig liver, alfalfa, cabbage, and spinach. The dietary ingredient essential for blood clotting was later discovered and termed ‘coagulation vitamin,’ or vitamin K.
Achievements & Awards
Henrik Dam and Edward Doisy separately discovered vitamin K from alfalfa in 1939. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was shared by the two for their discovery in 1943. In 1947, he was elected to the Danish Academy of Technical Sciences, and in 1948, he was elected to the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. In 1951, he was appointed Correspondant Étranger of the Académie Royale de Médecine de Belgique.
In 1953, he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and in 1954, he was appointed Joint Honorary President of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences. He was awarded the Norman Medal by the German Association for Fat Research in 1960, and he joined the German Association for Nutrition as a Corresponding Member in 1961.
Personal History and Legacy
In 1924, Henrik Dam married Inger Olsen. He died on April 17, 1976, in Copenhagen, Denmark, of natural causes. He was buried in Copenhagen’s Bispebjerg Kirkegrd.
Estimated Net Worth
Henrik is one of the wealthiest politicians and one of the most well-known. Henrik Dam Kristensen has a net worth of $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.
The Nobel Prize for 1943 was awarded to Henrik Dam and Doisy a year later, in 1944. This occurred due to the Nobel Committee’s inability to agree on a nominee that matched the parameters set down in Alfred Nobel’s bequest in 1943. As a result, they set aside the coveted reward for the following year.