Photo of Karl Folkers

Karl Folkers

  • National Medal of Science
  • Chemistry

For his discoveries and leadership in combining basic chemical research and clinical medicine to achieve new treatments of diseases which have enhanced the quality of life and extended survival rates for countless people.

Karl Folkers spent more than 60 years researching vitamins in both academic settings and pharmaceutical laboratories. The chemist’s work eventually led to B-vitamins being made available for use in daily vitamins and nutritional supplements.

Folkers developed an interest in pharmaceuticals while doing post-doctoral work. He joined the team at Merck and Company, a pharmaceutical company, in 1934 and became assistant director of research in 1938.

While working for Merck, Folkers studied vitamins, hormones, antibiotics, alkaloids and enzymes. He discovered several vitamins, including B-vitamins, while researching growth factors for animals and bacteria.

B-vitamins in supplements can promote healthy metabolism, help the body create new cells and may prevent future health conditions.

Folkers left Merck in 1968 to teach and research at the University of Texas at Austin, where he stayed until his death in 1997. While working at UT Austin, Folkers created the Institute for Biomedical Research and the Folkers Foundation.

By Rachel Warren