WITH A note of sadness, the Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics wishes to call to the attention of the membership the death of Robert Ramapatnam Williams. A noted chemist and scientist, Dr. Williams obtained world renown for his work on the isolation, identification, and synthesis of vitamin B1. He died at his home in Summit, New Jersey, in October 1965.
Born in Nellore, India, February 16, 1886, of American missionary parents, he began teaching in the Philippines in 1908 and considered the Islands his second home.
Williams never found time to earn a doctorate, although he attended Ottawa University (Kansas) and the University of Chicago for undergraduate and postgraduate work. He earned a B.S. in 1907 and an M.S. in 1908 and received honorary LL.D. and D.Sc. degrees from numerous universities.
The story of his work with beriberi is one of the most exciting in the field of nutrition. While working in the Philippines in 1910 with the Chemical Division of the Bureau of Science, he became interested in the disease. He assisted in treating an infant dying of beriberi with brown-rice bran syrup. The child's dramatic recovery stirred the synthesis of thiamine chloride. His work culminated in extensive field trials, again in the Philippines, shortly after World War I. For this study, the Bataan peninsula was divided into two parts. In the western area the inhabitants ate plain white rice; those in the eastern area received plain white rice enriched with rice coated with vitamin B1, concentrate. Within weeks the death rate from beriberi dropped dramatically in the eastern area. It remained high in the western area until smugglers began "running in" the treated rice.
- Copyright © 1966 by the American Academy of Pediatrics