This charming set of booklets was recently added to our History of Science collections to complement a collection emphasis on the history of vitamins and micronutrients, and their use in nutrition and alternative approaches to health and diet.
After Casimir Funk’s first work on vitamins in 1911, there was a notable emphasis on vitamins and their impact in American popular press and advertising. Americans were thrilled by the power, hope, and promise of vitamins, and looked to vitamin consumption as a quick fix to a multitude of health problems. Published in 1922, Ten Little Lessons on Vitamins was part of this new wave of interest in nutrition and diet.
In the introductory lesson, author Eugene Christian tells his story recovering health by eating only uncooked, natural foods. After recommending his approach to diet to numerous friends and acquaintances, Christian published Uncooked Foods and how to Use Them, a Treatise on How to Get the Highest Form of Animal Energy from Food, with Recipes for Preparation, Healthful Combinations, and Menus in 1901, and his career as nutritional activist was launched.
Through the Little Lessons, Christian wished to bring the “lessons of the new nutrition” out of the scientific literature and into clear language for laypersons, for use in their daily diet and “applications in the household.” He sought to convince a populace he claims was increasingly busy and reliant on unwholesome foods of the importance of “Vitamin Science,” and the consumption of “whole foods to which nothing has been added, and from which nothing has been taken away.” In the Little Lessons, Christian strongly advocated for a “Pure Food Movement” to restore nutritive value to American daily diets.
A self-proclaimed “prophet” of advances in nutrition, Christian headed many groups between 1915-1930 (including the Health-Culture Society, the Corrective Eating Society, and the Christian Dietetic Society), and published prolifically to spread his message of good health through better eating. Ten Little Lessons on Vitamins, and the numerous other works documenting the history of vitamins, natural foods, and orthomolecular medicine in our collections are of interest to scholars and students of the history of public health, popular culture, nutritional history, and alternative health.